Denis menaces Uncle Gordie

All the gossip from the Westminster Village

An invitation worth refusing landed on desks, Tamsin at the National Farmers' Union seemingly under the impression that parliamentary researchers are dead ringers for Worzel Gummidge. The dress code for a 24 April reception at Whitehall's Farmers Club is as long as a Common Agricultural Policy subsidy application form. Jeans are out, but gentlemen may borrow a "jacket and a selection of ties" at reception. Ladies are permitted trousers "but not casual slacks", a distinction lost on your correspondent. And "children are expected to confirm [sic] with these dress guidelines". Treating Westminster aides like kids is the surest way of triggering a great stayaway. Anyone know what's on telly that night?

To the Scottish Labour stushie in Aviemore, memorable for a tongue-tied Uncle Gordie confusing Nelson Mandela's lunchtime with his lifetime. Also wincing was Des "Swiss Tony" Browne, victim of friendly fire at a trade union drinkathon. The cabinet tank was introduced as "the Scottish Secretary when he's not doing that other job". Tory taunts that a part-time defence secretary betrays our boys by doubling up as envoy to the Picts evidently cuts little ice north of Hadrian' s Wall, where Sergeant Browne is charged with neglecting his Edinburgh duties. Sometimes a politician can never win.

The monoglot Supreme Leader was spied looking surprisingly sullen during drinky-poos for his Napoleonic ami Nicolas Sarkozy. With the two leaders was the one-time Europe minister Denis "the Menace" MacShane, a Labour MP who flaunts his Continental credentials with all the flair Mme Sarkozy displays for Christian Dior. Nearby guests knew why Uncle Gordie's entente cordiale had temporarily evaporated. Sarko and Denis the Menace were conversing happily in Français, the premier reduced to nodding. Presumably at the wrong bits. By the way, Mme Sarkozy, whispers a No 10er, isn't the brightest two-euro coin, and is a bit slow on the uptake.

Back to Scotland, where the Tartan Army's booing of Alex "Shrek" Salmond, who unwisely swallowed his own populist propaganda and stepped on to the Hampden turf at half-time in a footie game with Croatia, prompted talk of the First Minister's delusions of grandeur. The boss of a local taxi firm recalled how Shrek flew to the SNP's autumn fling in Aviemore by helicopter and then, in a touch of the Prezzas, jumped into a waiting Jag to chauffeur him 400 yards. Nothing's too good for the Chief Separator!

Gordon Brown views himself as Demosthenes, Lycra Lout David Cameron as Cicero. The well-read premier sees a modern "parallel". Cicero made good speeches, Demosthenes got things done. Thus reopens an ancient divide in 21st-century politics.

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 07 April 2008 issue of the New Statesman, British jihad