Playful MPs go with the Flo

The curse of the "Red Ed" tag strikes again, with an anxious Ed Miliband pulling out of next month's brass-band-and-banner nostalgia fest that is the Durham Miners' Gala to avoid right-whingers labelling him "Left Labour". The leader's office cited pressure on his diary and the presence of the RMT's shaven-headed militant, Bob "Strike!" Crow, on the platform. The wait continues for the first Labour chief to address the "Big Meeting" since Neil Kinnock, more than 20 years ago.

You can take the telly presenter out of Play School but you can't take Play School out of the presenter. Floella Benjamin, now the Lib Dem peer Baroness Benjamin, had MPs squirming at the annual meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children's Media. She didn't ask them to talk to Big Ted or look through the round window but used her experience with children to persuade blushing politicians on to their hind legs to be applauded into honorary posts. Just for the record, officers include the Looby Loo-like Lisa Nandy and the Bungle-esque figure of Tommy Watson.

Word comes of an MP whose name shall be withheld for obvious reasons. A tactile northerner of the old macho school, the MP greeted a female comrade by pinching her bum during a drinks reception at a Labour conference. From behind, the mane of red hair led the MP to believe that she was a playful colleague. I wonder if Rebekah Brooks remembers it? The MP certainly does and still opens the Sun every day with trepidation.

To be bright and ambitious may suddenly be a handicap for Chuka Umunna, shunted out of Ed Mili's office to a small biz brief. Self-belief is considered a weakness by less aspiring colleagues, particularly when the MP appears to have changed his first names to "Rising Star" by deed poll. “See that Barack Obama?" sneered a Labourite. “He's America's answer to Chuka Umunna." Miaow.

Dods, the maiden aunt of parliamentary publishing, has let it be known that it didn't grant permission for a chinless wonder on the posh unreality show Made in Chelsea to use its mugshots on his sexymp website. Dods threatened "appropriate measures", then cheekily invited MPs and peers to photo shoots to update snaps. Never let a copyright complaint go to waste.

Revenge is a dish best served hot or cold. Friends of Polite Labour's Stella Creasy are plotting revenge on the junior defence minister Andrew Robathan, should he be discharged in a reshuffle. The Tory patriarch, you may recall, brusquely challenged the elfin Walthamstow MP for using a Commons lift. If he is sacked, unforgiving sisters want Creasy to ask Robathan: "Remind me who you were?"

This may be a first and last: a clean joke told by Blue Labour's Frank "Effing" Dobson. Patient: "Doctor, Doctor, I think I'm a moth." Doctor: "I'm a GP. You need the psychiatrist down the corridor." Patient: "I know, but your light was on."

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 June 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Sunni vs Shia