The chatter in Conservative circles is of the amiable Welsh Tory spinner Guto Harri, a housewives’ favourite on the box before he quit the BBC to sweep up after Boris Johnson, sailing along the Thames to Downing Street from City Hall in London. My snout whispered that Harri, an Oxford contemporary of David Cameron’s – though he avoided the Bullingdon stigma – could be on the move after the mayoral election on 3 May.
The people’s toff lost his common touch when Andy Coulson departed to help the police with their inquiries. And the premier’s communications chief, Craig “Crazy Olive” Oliver, another Cameron recruit from a BBC that right-whingers denounce without irony as home to a lefty conspiracy, is – how can I put this? – struggling. Hacks were surprised Oliver found the time to attend a party for the Mail on Sunday’s departing editor, Peter Wright, while the government was running out of fuel. But Crazy Olive appeared to have not a care in the world.
With his background in PR, Cameron the Prime Spinner is able to spot a potential negative story. During a No 10 reception for city mayors, a radar-lugged spy overheard the Liverpool Post lobby journalist Rob Merrick ask Dave if he would campaign for the no-hope Tory candidate in the Labour Merseyside stronghold. “No, I don’t always help . . .” Dave began but then suddenly switched to: “Yes, I will.” Thus a damaging “Cameron abandons Liverpool Tories” headline was averted for the cost of a first-class return train ticket.
Peter Bone, the Sven-Göran Eriksson dopplegänger who represents Wellingborough, is fond of starting his questions: “This morning at the breakfast table, Mrs Bone was saying . . .” In Westminster Mrs Bone has acquired the cult status of Captain Mainwaring’s wife, Elizabeth, spoken of but never seen in Dad’s Army. Yet your correspondent has had his ear bent, not over what she says, but what he eats for breakfast. An informant watched in Portcullis House as Mr Bone consumed three croissants for breakfast, followed by a bowl of Special K, washed down with black coffee. So intrigued was my man by the three-croissant petit déjeuner, he inspected the plate afterwards to confirm that only pastry flakes remained. No wonder she does all the talking at breakfast. He must be too busy chewing to utter a word.
In the Westminster throng for a free pasty courtesy of the Sun was that tattooed man of the people, Stephen Pound, a London Labour MP with a Greggs loyalty card. At under a quid, the gift won’t have to be recorded in the register of members’ interests.
Immodesty allows me to recall that, last December, this column recounted: “I hear [Liam] Byrne, whose seat is to be axed, fancies running for mayor of Birmingham.” Some latecomers claim it was they who disclosed Baldemort’s ambition to swap Hodge Hill for England’s second city’s Council House. In the double-edged advice of Byrne’s snitch: “You might as well blow your own trumpet because nobody else will.”
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror