George gets Willy in a spin

A Tory snout revealed that the amateur spin doctor George Osborne was the Gerald Ratner of political PR who advised William Hague to issue that humiliating "I'm not gay" statement. The Chancellor persuaded the Foreign Secretary over lunch, muttered my informant, that he'd nip internet rumours in the bud by going public about his private life.

The wheeze wasn't entirely successful: both Hague's room arrangements and his wife Ffion's miscarriages dissected on TV and radio, while newspapers dig with renewed vigour. Osborne, once a trainee scribbler on the Times, likes to think he knows how to handle the media. The Tory snout wondered if ambitious Osborne is envious of Hague's closeness to the PM. Was it a mere coincidence that Osborne's counsel damaged Hague's own prospects?

Irony alert: Lord Prescott of Machine Politics is to be mangled by the block vote. His attempt to become Labour treasurer failed before a single party member voted in the current ballot. The unions, which control 50 per cent of the mini-college, agreed to back Unite's leading lady, Diana Holland, as chief bean-counter.

To Manchester, where the TUC spared Vince Cable the Bob Crow-bar treatment by withdrawing an invitation to justify Con-Dem crimes to rebellious bruvvers and sisters. A delegation will meet the Biz Secretary in London instead. The Cons may be alarmed at the steady flow of private conversations between Dem ministers and union chiefs. It's whispered that Nick Clegg has even apologised for his attacks on the so-called gold-plated pensions of nurses and teachers.

The TUC thought it safe to let Andrew Mitchell be the first Tory minister to appear at the congress because his budget is safe and his fringe meeting was low-key. Mitchell was so eager to arrive, he attempted to jump a long taxi queue outside Manchester station. A snout watched Mitchell's young female aide fail to persuade two blokes at the front to let the minister share their cab. Rebuffed, he was forced to wait at the back and shuffle forward, all in it together.

Quitting the Dis-Unite union to return to his Scottish croft, Brown's old bruiser Charlie Whelan is to lead the fight to save the Highland Chieftain,
a once-a-day London-Inverness train threatened by spending cuts. The MP for Inverness is the Treasury cutter-in-chief, Danny Alexander. The Harry Potter-alike is silent about the end of this Hogwarts Express. Not for much longer, I'd wager.

The bookstall at the TUC in Manchester didn't stock Tony Blair's bestselling tome, to avoid upsetting revolting comrades by reminding them of the
three-time winner.

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 20 September 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Catholicism in crisis