A mysterious operation, an unethical pay-off, and a case of untimely chatter
John "Treble Chins" Edmonds, leader of the GMB and scourge of new Labour on "creeping privatisation" of the NHS, let slip in a Daily Telegraph interview that, after a recent eye operation, he no longer has to wear glasses. My medical consultant advises: "Lots of people, mainly women in middle age, have the operation because they don't like wearing glasses. But you cannot have this vanity surgery done on the NHS .You have to go private." Hmm. Did he go private, or did he find an NHS hospital willing to operate? And what next - a chinectomy? He could start a chin donation group, to help the deserving chinless.
The grandly titled Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform met over spaghetti, wild mushrooms and red wine in the Adjournment Restaurant at Westminster, but could not agree on the way forward. It was an agreeable occasion, none the less. William Hague (remember him?) talked about his book on William Pitt. Lord (Geoffrey) "Broken Bat" Howe took the chair, and Labour MPs are now clubbing together to buy him Citrine's ABC of Chairmanship. Jack Cunningham usually presides, but could not be present. He had told the opening session: "We are not so much in the long grass as knee-deep in the rainforest."
Forget Iraq. The real issue dividing Labour is state funding of political parties, which Tony Blair wants but dare not ask for. Tom Watson, a heavyweight Black Country MP, launched a broadside against taxpayers' cash for politics at a TUC conference fringe meeting. Sitting at the back, taking copious notes, was Andrew Pakes, a new attack dog for Labour who came to the party from the university teachers' union, the AUT. Watson, a former Amicus official, bellowed out his recognition of the note-taker. Pakes, an exceptionally good friend of the junior minister Stephen Twigg, wilted under the tirade. Expect more, similar, scenes.
Rosie Boycott, the celebrity ex-editor of the Daily Express, explains in the guide for the Lib Dems' conference why she swapped Tony Blair for Charlie Kennedy. New Labour is "totally risk-averse". And Blair is "all talk and no action". Try telling that to my fellow NUJ members who have won back union recognition all round the country. But the final straw for Rosie was Labour taking a £100,000 donation from her former boss, the Express owner, Richard Desmond. "I didn't become politically committed in order to support a party which takes money from a pornographer," she rails. Er, what about the £200,000-plus pay-off that Rosie got from Dirty Des for quitting the Black Lubyanka? She could have just walked out, like the late Tony Bevins.
Oliver Letwin and Liam Fox, shadow home and health respectively, scoffed their way through the 11 September minute's silence in a talkative lunch on the Commons Terrace. Questioned by a People investigator, Ollie coughed to the offence: "I just forgot, I'm sorry." But Foxy claimed to have observed the silence "on American time".
Number one in a new series of stories that sound incredible but might be true: the Treasury has hired a hawk to keep down the pigeon vermin in its new, atrium-style Whitehall HQ.
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror