Comical Ali is back, offering his pearls of wisdom

All the gossip from the Westminster Village

He's back. The Samuel Peep-Hole of new Labour is advising another premier. Yes, Alastair Campbell is offering pearls of wisdom to Gordon Brown. It remains a mystery whether the Father of the Nation invited spin or whether Comical Ali, frustrated at sitting by a phone that never rings, presented himself as a willing volunteer. My Talibrown snouts whisper how Comical Ali has taken to pinging 20:20 hindsight memos to Numero Dix including an assessment of the election that never was. The one-time tabloid propagandist devoted much of his tenure denouncing a media obsessed by gossip, tittle-tattle and ministerial splits. That was before, of course, he published a diary full of, err, gossip, tittle-tattle and ministerial splits. The uncharitable wonder if Peep-Hole is collecting material for another chapter.

Humour alert. Druggie Dave is displaying disturbing signs of being able to laugh at himself, perhaps advised that it will put him in touch with an electorate which likes to giggle at politicians. On the wall of the Tory leader's office, I'm told, is a newspaper cutting with the arresting headline: "Official: He IS a useless tosser." Before readers muse that it's fair comment (and it's not my place to demure), I should explain. The statement accompanies a picture of Cameron failing to flip a pancake on Shrove Tuesday, a stunt presumably intended to cast Dave in a good light, not give a red-top sub-editor the chance to vent his contempt.

Yomping across Britain to rally Lib Dem troops behind the half-Belgian Nick Clog is Captain Paddy Ashdown. Knitting was dropped when the ex-Royal Marine declared that Clog has the right stuff to command the Commons. I, declared Ashdown, personally found PMQs more terrifying than active service. To think we all thought he was trained to strangle with piano wire, when all along he was frightened of barbs from the Beast of Bolsover.

Another wind of change blows through the Tories: Alan "Dinky" Duncan has recently returned from a fraternal chat in Congress House with TUC bigwig Brendan Barber (below). The two got on famously, I hear. Tea and biscuits replaced beer and sandwiches, yet the small business spokesman - as in a small man speaking with the business brief - was sweetness and light. Is no institution safe from the Cameron charm offensive?

To the chagrin of your correspondent, not a single MP, peer or officer of the House has pushed in while I've queued patiently for a cup of tea. Hopefully, they'll return from the latest parliamentary holiday - sorry, recess - with sharpened elbows and exercise the priority rights they so graciously granted themselves. To keep the flame of fairness burning however dimly within the Mock Gothic Fun Palace, I herewith invite NS readers to report jumpers and invite explanations from named miscreants. Please form an orderly queue . . .

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 12 November 2007 issue of the New Statesman, 3 easy steps to save the planet