Mandy is handy but will Cameron play the Field?
Is Frank Field set to cross the floor?
The BBC presenter Andrew Marr has achieved for Peter Mandelson what always eluded Tony Blair. The schoolmarmish Morecambe MP Geraldine Smith was so impressed by the way the Prince of Darkness turned the tables on Marr and grilled him on his own Sunday show over the fate of Gordon Brown that she announced to Labour MPs: “Something happened to me that has never happened before and I never thought would happen. I found myself in love with Peter Mandelson.” Mandy blushed and momentarily smiled at Miss Smith before swiftly looking away, presumably remembering that his gaze used to turn Labour MPs to stone.
The Speaker’s assassin, Herman Munster’s long-lost relative Douglas Carswell, is feeling hounded over his own expenses. The Tory MP protested: “I’m not a wealthy man,” when his local Essex rag queried a £23,083 claim for a second home in the constituency. This from a one-time City boy with a place in London and a house rented out in Hertfordshire. An uncharitable colleague expressed surprise Carswell had purchased, at public expense, a £32.97 Toni & Guy hairdryer. The MP said he’d always imagined Herman recharging himself every night with an electric helmet.
At the BBC, I bump into Ben Bradshaw, the Radio Devon reporter now overseeing the DG as cabinet culture vulture. How much, I asked, trying to sound innocent, is the licence fee? “One hundred and forty . . . erm . . . that’s one of those facts I must remember to avoid being caught out on,” he replied as an aide ushered him out. The correct answer, Mr Culture Secretary, is £142.50.
Overheard by a radar-lugged snout: two Conservatives, discussing the future of Frank Field, who, last time I checked, was a Labour MP. This pair, whom discretion annoyingly prevents me identifying, declared that David Cameron has big plans for saintly Field. The Vicar of Birkenhead resisted attempts to persuade him to defect and declined to chair a policy commission for Druggie Dave. Should Cameron win the election, how about back to the future for Field as minister for welfare reform?
Unparliamentary language was used, I hear, when that couple of right Charlies, Clarke and Whelan, clashed in Star Chamber Court in Westminster. Brown’s ex-spinner Whelan fired an expletive at Clarke the plotter, licking his wounds alongside Stephen Byers a few emotional hours after the coup fizzled out. “You’re drunk,” charged Clarke. The old muckers have a long history of thirst-quenching together, so an indignant Whelan replied that it sounded like “kettles and pots”. Byers, by inclination a political herbivore, just looked hurt in the crossfire.
An informant muttered that he’d backed a fringe party for the first time in the Euro elections. The Greens? Arthur Scargill’s barmy army? Those muscular Christians? Nope, he’s a Labour voter in south-east England, where the party finished fifth.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror