Painting the town blue

Into the Conservative bubble in Manchester, where the first person your correspondent bumped into was the Prime Minister. I was struggling with heavy bags into the hotel lift; he was trying to lead a posse out. It'd be fair to say that we were both startled, your Tory-baiting correspondent
not exactly top of the Cameron Christmas card list. My "Hello, David" prompted a "Welcome" from the PM, followed a moment later by a less cordial "-ish", before he strode purposefully into the Midland Hotel foyer.

The Buller Boy may be pleased to learn that Tom Baldwin, Ed Miliband's Alastair Campbell, vetoed a full-throated, class-war attack on the cabinet millionaires by the telephone engineer's son Andy Burnham. The shadow educashun secretary was poised to deliver his condemnation at the party's Liverpool shindig when he was handed a note instructing him, in capitals: "DO NOT USE BULLINGDON." So, missing it was, along with the cheers the digs would've earned.

Citizen Dave's casuals were so smart that he was clearly heading for a night on the town. I later discovered that the destination of his jeans and polo shirt was Little Yang Sing, a Chinese restaurant in a basement in Manchester. I know this because the management didn't realise that the booking was for the Prime Minister and the Chancer of the Exchequer, George Osborne, plus assorted Downing Street flunkies. Thus, the PM was seated at a table adjacent to a press pack dining with his aide Gabby Bertin, the Lady Sybil Crawley of Downturn Britain. In a failure of joined-up government, she'd declined Cameron's invitation, because she had already agreed to go for a Chinese. Neither had checked if it was at the same eatery.

The Rosa Luxemburg of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O'Grady, deputy general secretary of the labour movement's industrial wing, told how she became lost in Liverpool while driving to a meeting. Seeking help from a Scouse-nav, O'Grady pulled over and wound down the window. "Excuse me," she said to a pedestrian, "how do I get to the university?" The Liverpudlian shot back: "Study hard."

In the register of members' financial interests, David Miliband reveals Fleet Street's freelance rates. The Mail on Sunday paid him £2,000 twice, once for a piece that took three hours, then a second requiring two hours, plus a juicy cheque of £2,500 for a four-hour commentary. The Times stumped up a couple of £500 payments, both listed as needing two hours' work. It seems Lord Rothermere is more generous than Rupert Murdoch. Memo to NS editor: where's my rate rise? (OK, I know the answer.)

"Boy George" Osborne's hopes of drawing a line under the former dominatrix Natalie Rowe's allegations face a couple of hurdles. I hear that she wants her say in court on phone-hacking. And Labour MPs, including the rottie John Spellar, call Ozzy "Louise", which Rowe asserts was a "safety word". Whatever that means.

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 10 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The next great depression