Ali C and the dodgy brakes

A sideways look at the Westminster Village

Druggie Dave's "Big Idea", if he gets to cycle into Downing Street, failed to impress the Daily Torygraph - wobbling as the party's staunchest Fleet Street supporter over all that namby-pamby, hug-a-hoodie, guff. Invited by the thirtysomething editor, Will Lewis, to break bread with senior scribblers, word reaches of dropped jaws when the messiah unveiled his show-stopper for No 10. Quit the EU? Restore the empire? Nope, reintroduce hunting. Lewis, I'm told, looked distinctly underwhelmed.

A man's got to earn a crust, but Alastair Campbell's latest incarnation is raising eyebrows. Having finished spinning a yarn on his Downing Street years, he's popped up as a paid consultant on "strategic communications" to FirstGroup. The firm makes a mint out of bus and rail privatisation and, across the pond, has a dodgy reputation as ferociously anti-union. Officially, Ali C is advising on branding, charity and sports sponsorship. The line is greeted with scepticism in Aslef, the Labour-affiliated drivers' union, which accuses FirstGroup of spinning in a row over allegation of second-hand train brakes.

Hitting the buffers may be the deputy leader's bandwagon of Mr Nice Guy, Hilary "Son of Tony" Benn. My campaign mole whispers that an emissary approached the court of Jon "Crusher" Cruddas to discuss the "loan" of MPs. According to my mole, the Son of Tony - which Tony? Hilary was a Blairite not a Bennite - is struggling to secure nominations to get on the ballot paper. He is squeezed between Crusher's union-funded charabanc and grinning Alan "Mr Quiffy" Johnson. The Benn camp argues that it would be better for Crusher to widen the field instead of going head-to-head with Mr Quiffy. Volunteers, please?

Before we leave that tussle, the whisper inside Big Gordie's team is he favours Mr Quiffy. Tony Blair, too, privately backs him, so time will tell whether endorsements of both is a help or a hindrance. Robominister John Reid, aka DCI Gene Hunt in TV's Life on Mars, enjoyed a pow-wow, by the way, with his Sunday Torygraph fan, Patience Wheatcroft. Days later Reid's "friends" revealed in her publication that he'd back the jolly green giant David Miliband against Big Gordie. As coincidences go, that's quite a coincidence.

A revolt in the village over a 14 per cent price hike for a mug of tea. This sounds less hefty on learning that it was up 5p to 40p. Inmates dismissed the management note ("we appreciate your understanding") as the equivalent of Chamberlain and Munich.

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 16 April 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Iran