The Talibrown prepare for battle

Turning the airwaves blue

Much shouting at the box these days by a Gordon Brown who views the BBC as little more than an arm of the Conservative propaganda machine. The Talibrown recall a splenetic bust-up on board a train between the Supreme Leader and Nick Robinson, the Sgt Bilko lookalike who is Auntie's political editor. Irked by the broadcaster's line of inquiry, Big Gordie loudly denounced the protesting Robinson as a Tory. Brown's never forgotten - or forgiven - Robbo for chairing the Young Conservatives in the Thatcherite 1980s. Yet it's the appointment of affable James Landale as Robbo's deputy that's turned up the volume. Landale was a contemporary at Eton of David Cameron and Boris Johnson. The charge in No 10 is that a Biased Broadcasting Corporation is preparing for the Conservatives eight months before an election.

Fight or flee

David Cameron isn't as keen on a live TV debate as he once was, I gather. Druggie Dave fancied a single-bout, winner-takes-all knockdown. The Talibrown whisper that their man prefers three rounds or none. My Tory informant mumbled that what sounded a macho challenge last year is a risk next year when a Tory leader ahead in the polls has everything to lose and nothing to gain. Bugged telephone calls isn't the only worry keeping Andy "I knew nothing" Coulson awake at night.

Lady or a tramp?

Ermine has turned the head of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon. As plain Jan Royall, she carried Neil Kinnock's bags, but the Labour peer has acquired airs and graces as leader of the Lords. In a rarefied gathering of the great-and-not-so-good at the LSE, my radar-lugged snout choked on his indignation when he overheard the Baroness declare loftily: "There's no such thing as class in this country any more." Spoken like a true lady.

Phoney briefing

Mobile phone salesman Simon Lewis is struggling to get Brown's number. Snouts mutter that the Vodafone executive-turned-Downing Street mouthpiece is rapidly growing frustrated that his advice is ignored. Lewis offers PR options, which are routinely rejected, when the best way to communicate with the PM is to bark instructions. Lobby hacks give the corporate suit's briefings 4 out of 10. He omitted to inform reporters that a supposedly "warm" 40-minute phone call with the White House included Obama objecting to the Lockerbie bomber's release. One veteran Labour spinner calls Lewis "Sideshow Simon". Behind his back, of course.

Bog standard

Tory Mark Pritchard has developed a curious phobia of toilet door handles. The Wrekin MP is worried he'll catch a nasty bug from visitors who don't wash after flushing. Pritchard sticks his hand in a jacket pocket and opens the door with his suit. Should he produce a bag of sweets from his pocket, my advice is to decline politely. You know where they've been.

Old dogs, old tricks

Alastair Campbell will be back. The Labour campaign team drafted by Brown's Man Friday-to-Thursday, Peter Mandelson, includes his old mucker. Tony Blair's veteran rottweiler is pencilled in by Milord Mandy as head of Tory attack. Saddam Hussein decommissioned his weapons of mass destruction before the invasion. Labour's reactivating Comical Ali, the party's weapon of mass disinformation, for an election onslaught.

Trotsky in Turkey

Revolutionary fervour burned in Labour's Stephen Pound as he set off for the first bolt-hole of exiled Leon Trotsky. The original Trot (Leon, not Pound) lived on the island of Buyukada off Istanbul for four years from 1929. A bearded Greek Orthodox priest asked to give political directions turned out to be from Blackburn and spoke with a thick Lancastrian accent. Pound's greater surprise was to discover Trotsky's refuge is the Hotel Splendid, an upmarket jacket-and-tie place. Some things are too good for the workers. It has a doorman to keep out scruffy Dave Sparts on far-left pilgrimages.

What's Del Boy's beef?

Brown wasted the kitchen staff's time by getting them to cook a meat-free lasagne for Dis-Unite's Derek Simpson at the TUC Balti summit in Chequers. The PM thinks Del Boy's a vegetarian. He was. My spy watched Simmo over the summer chew on a plate of spare ribs. Whatever his beef with the PM, the union leader is worried his lentil-eating wife will find out. He's not told Mrs Simpson. Don't worry Del, your secret's safe with us.

Size matters

Old Labour Simpson's weakness for the finer things in life made him the butt of a rare Hattie Harman joke. Dis-Unite members own a £800,000 house where Del Boy lives in some style. When Simpson was given a guided tour of Chequers by the PM, said Harperson, he complained it wasn't big enough.

House of cads

Eddie Izzard said he'd like to be an MP in 10 or 15 years, but here's a random list of figures your correspondent has found sniffing around for Labour seats: TV historian Tristram Hunt (Engels's biographer), union geezer Jack Dromey (Mr Hattie Harperson), Cherie Blair's one-time hitwoman Fiona Millar (Ms Comical Ali) and one of David Miliband's voices, Madlin Sadler (MP Barry Sheerman's daughter).

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 28 September 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The 50 people who matter