Betting on the Tube’s high rollers

Why a tube strike during the Olympics has just become more likely.

Was the Iron Lady succeeded in the House of Commons by the ironing ladies? Westminster's newest recruit, Seema Malhotra (not Malhotra-Suma as the Mail on Sunday called her, although she's on the electoral roll as Malhotra-Saluja, with a married name attached), was shown the lady members' room on a tour of the premises. And the victor of the Feltham and Heston by-election was surprised to see an ironing board. Perhaps a handy prop for Meryl Streep. Yet I suspect few female MPs iron their feminist principles before making a speech on equality. Must remember to check the men's for a Corby trouser press.

This column's Wapping mole whispers that the launch of the Sun on Sunday is pencilled in for April to catch the end of the football season. The replacement for the News of the World would be edited by Victoria Newton, former deputy ed of the closed Screws.

The 1834 transportation to Australia of six Dorset farm workers who formed a union is commemorated every year by the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Festival. The labour movement diary isn't exactly overcrowded with major dates and the Durham Miners' Gala is another red letter day. This year's scheduling, therefore, of the two big events at opposite ends of England on the same weekend, of 14 July, would have even David Low's TUC carthorse stamping its hooves in frustration. It's disorganised labour.

Word reaches me of a peculiar incident involving Lembit Öpik and bile of a non-political nature captured in a pint glass. The moment, witnessed during a reception in the HQ of the Royal Institute of British Architects, wouldn't have been out of place in a jungle bushtucker trial during his spell on I Wannabe a Celebrity. The waiter declined to accept said glass, despite the unabashed Lib Dem explaining that he was unwell.

The bookmaker Ladbrokes risked hitting the buffers by offering odds of 10/1 on Aslef calling a London Underground strike during the summer's Olympics. The bet sounded too good to miss for the union's chief driver, Mick Whelan. "We could put all our liquid money on it happening," Aslef's general secretary mused, "call a day's industrial action, pay the drivers to have a day off and still clean up." He was joking, I think, yet the right type of gamble would join the wrong type of snow on the list of classic explanations for disruption.

Your correspondent declined, politely, invitations to the Oxford and Cambridge Unions. Neither's short of aspiring speakers, so I'm unlikely to be missed. The desperation of some hacks and public figures to be asked to perform has always tickled me. Perhaps they want to impress young thrusters who might one day become their boss. I prefer a debate down the pub, even when not drinking in January.

The one-time wannabe pop star Alan Johnson wears a parka. Leader of Smart Labour? The former home secretary's coat underlined his credentials as more mod than moderniser.

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 16 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The battle for Britain