The secret of Dave’s grey zone

The Jeeves-like figure of John Whittingdale, chair of the culture committee investigating phone-hacking, might find himself on a sticky wicket, should he ask the Murdoch empire to bowl his local cricket club another three grand. Whittingflail, you may recall, was accused of being too cosy with Rupert after it emerged that BSkyB, in which the Sun King retains a 39 per cent stake, had slipped £3,000 sponsorship to the Essex Tory's local club. I hear that Whittingflail redeemed himself during a private ding-dong on the committee. Discussing whether or not to recall Rupe's hapless son James, two of the chair's Conservative colleagues, the perpetually youthful Louise Mensch and the real ale buff Therese Coffey, voiced scepticism. If that was their decision, Whittingflail mused with a cunning that P G Wodehouse would have admired, perhaps the pair should inform the baying press pack. The threat cued unanimity. Murdoch Jr's grilling is scheduled for 10 November.

Old habits die hard for Elliot Morley, a former fishy minister in the Labour government's environment department, who was freed early after serving four months in one of Her Majesty's guest houses for fiddling £30,000 of expenses. Morley earned a mere £7 a week at Ford Open Prison and, while inside, had his £3,000 Rolex nicked. He doesn't appear to have lost his taste for luxury, however. My spy observed the ex-MP in the first-class carriage of the 16.08 train from King's Cross to Newark. Hairshirts issued after scams by the likes of Morley require most MPs these days to travel standard or second class. But nothing's too good for an ex-con who liked the gravy train, eh, Elliot?

Bumping into the satirist Martin Rowson, your correspondent was informed that Paul Staines, better known as the right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes, has yet to collect a two-year-old raffle prize. The winning ticket, bought at an Index on Censorship fundraiser, secured the holder a sitting with Martin the Merciless. Rowson is feared for his scathing pen and fiery, left-wing beliefs. If Staines has calculated that the resulting sketch would be less than flattering and therefore saved himself an hour of abuse, he's made a good call.

The sudden appearance of a sizeable grey smudge across the Prime Minister's bonce gave credence to this column's repeated assertion that Citizen Dave colours his barnet. Conclusive proof would be the patch miraculously turning black again. I'm watching, Downing Street. The Silvikrin Kid is fighting a losing battle, too, with the spreading bald patch. Spotting Cameron's hairless zone has become a popular game among hacks peering down from the Commons Press Gallery. The day edges nearer when this Old Etonian premier will resemble the last: the baldie Alec Douglas-Home.

Ken Livingstone's lot in London are wrestling with how their man can stop Boris Johnson taking credit for the popular hire bicycles, initiated under Labour rule, though introduced during the Tory's reign. Anyone fancy pedalling a Ken's Cycle instead of a Boris Bike?

Guinness went up 55p to £3.50 a pint in Westminster. One toper moaned that he'd have to give up crisps. As Nye Bevan once said, the language of priorities is the religion of socialism.

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 07 November 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The triumph of the Taliban