Commons Confidential

Stairway with Stapleton

The PM proved that those runs in St James's Park are paying off during a recent visit to GMTV. The lift was broken, so up three flights of stairs bounded Gordon Brown before traipsing across a roof, trailed by Sarah B - clip-clopping in heels - and the Special Branch heavies. GMTV's anchorman John Stapleton must be TV's fittest presenter: he matched Brown step for step. And he had to walk the stairs with William Hague.

If you believe the Tories' spin, David Cameron doesn't need lifts or stairs. He just glides upwards on a breeze of goodwill. Labour once claimed the same of Tony Blair.

Surely deserving of a peerage if Cam wins is Sir Stuart Rose, the obliging boss of M&S. Sir Stuart had a polka-dot dress handmade for Sam Cam so that she could look high-street chic. But it is his starring role in the great National Insurance row, touring TV studios to warn of job losses under Labour, that has had Dave purring. Sir Stuart was affronted by hurtful whispers that he is a Tory marionette, and has insisted that he is politically neutral. So imagine my surprise when a snout flashed the seating plan for a Conservative fundraiser in Battersea earlier this year. At the top table with Dave, Sam and Mickey Ashcroft was Sir Stuart. This isn't just any leading businessman. This is a Tory-friendly businessman.

I hear the Financial Times is itching to come out for the Cons, abandoning a Labour affiliation stretching back to 1992. The Pink 'Un is closer to Broon on the big issues (City regulation, financial stimulus, Europe, Heathrow) but the team fancies backing the victor if Cam is on his way to No 10.

If it happens, the chief leader writer, Jonathan Ford, is likely to be influential. You've probably seen him. He is seated at Cameron's feet, to the left of Boris Johnson, in that 1987 Bullingdon Club snap.

Over at the Times, I was reminded that the editor, James Harding, was offered a job by Nick Clegg as an Andy Coulson figure when the Lib Dem leader took up his post. One of the pair had a lucky escape. But which one? My money is on Harding.

I am told of simmering tensions behind the happy faces at Tory Towers. A mole with a blue rosette whispered that Coulson's salary - which could be anything up to £475,000 - is resented by the peasants on peanuts. Coulson has been promised - telephone-tapping revelations permitting - a Downing Street job. Meanwhile, the party slaves are realising that regardless of the 6 May result, they'll get a pat on the back from one hand and
a P45 from the other.

The first blood spilled in the campaign was that of Teresa Pearce. The Labour candidate in Erith and Thamesmead required hospital treatment
after encountering Baron the Rottweiler. There was, however, gain along with the pain. "On a good note, I vote Labour," the beast's apologetic owner explained. Every vote counts.

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 19 April 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The big choice