Strictly speaking, IDS shies away from snappers

Strait-laced Captain Iain Duncan Smith is a shy cutter. The former Scots Guard serving as Secretary of State for No Work and Lower Pensions was on parade, shoes shining and tie knotted perfectly, for the launch of Marriage Week UK in Commons committee room ten. The organisers had flown in the Italian opera star Gianluca Paganelli to add a dash of glamour and to claim - dubiously, in the opinion of a correspondent with two left feet - that the passion of the tango brings couples together. All went well until IDS was asked to pose for a picture with the singer and a glamorous female dancer. They weren't all in it together when the minister's quick-stepping aides issued a "no photos" edict. Were they worried it would look like an audition for Strictly?

Hoping for a soonish ministerial call-up is David Laws. I gather that Laws, exiled over second home-ophobia since last May after only 16 days in the cabinet, is expecting a call from No 10, should he escape severe censure over rent claimed on a flat and house owned by his partner. A Lib Dem colleague mutters that Laws is turning down most speaking invitations for events from mid-March onwards.

As a one-time TV spin doctor, David Cameron refers to tame journalists as "squared", a phrase with a faintly masonic ring. Defiantly unsquared is Westminster's regional lobby. Cameron surprised political editors by summoning them to Downing Street and announcing “I want something in return" for curbing council freesheets that compete for advertising. "You are all part of the big society," announced the Prime Spinner. If they ever were, they're not now. The hacks, I hear, were horrified that Cameron thought he'd co-opted them into the Big Con.

Absent from the government list of "Not contents" following a one-vote defeat for Labour in the House of Lords over electoral reform was Lord ("Bertie") Denham. A fox-hunting Old Etonian, Maggie Thatcher's chief whip in the politicians' retirement home was spied looking bleary-eyed in a corridor shortly after the narrow reverse. I've yet to ask Denham why he wasn't present, but I believe any chap of 83 is entitled to an afternoon nap in the library.

To Sunderland to watch the footie at the Stadium of Light. No glimpse of the £50,000-a-year signing David Miliband, an Arsenal supporter inexplicably appointed vice-chair of the Wearside club. Mackems, as Sunderland fans are known, don't expect to see him regularly unless the team qualifies for the Europa League. Then, they snigger, he will do the job for which a former foreign secretary was hired - sitting next to the coach driver, reading road maps in Riga, Limassol, Sofia . . .

Nick Clegg's subservient position will be glaring when he and David Cameron visit Cardiff on the same weekend next month. The PM will address the UK-wide Tory party at the SWALEC stadium, home of Glamorgan county cricket. Clegg will speak to Welsh Lib Dems at the Angel Hotel. In
a function room, one up from a telephone booth.

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 21 February 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The offshore City