The shaggy oats of wrath

One of the finest beards in Westminster failed to hide the blushes of Fabian Hamilton, who was required to exit a Commons committee deliberating the future of financial services after he was caught, spoon-handed, eating at the back. The chairman, Edward Leigh, a schoolmasterly Tory, is a stickler for rules and tore a strip off the Labour lad from Leeds when the hungry Hamilton admitted it was a bowl of porridge. The Tyke MP's offer to share the boiled oatmeal with colleagues was brusquely declined, the disciplinarian Leigh deeming porridge a "banned substance" and therefore informing Beardie that he was "obliged" to leave. Hamilton blamed a broken-down car for the late breakfast. Because he is diabetic, he needs to eat regularly. Next time, he should buy an orange. The citrus fruit is apparently one of the few unbanned snacks in committees.

Operation Humanise continues apace to remould geeky Ted Miliband into a passable imitation of a lovable leader. The latest guru asked for telly tips, I'm told, is Martin Frizell, one-time choreographer of the GMTV sofa and significant other of the presenter Fiona Phillips. My snout described Little Ted as a human work in progress. Another consultant in what is known as the "image" world suggested, a touch cruelly, that Labour had two choices with Ed Miliband: change his first name to David or his last to Balls.

The millionaire minister Philip "Hatchet" Hammond learned that politicians, like actors, should never work with children and animals. Wearing his hat of MP for Runnymede, the Defence Secretary did a meet and greet in the Commons with a group of local kids on a school trip but it turned tricky when a girl asked how much he earned. Hatchet, worth an estimated £9m after making a fortune in property and other businesses, appeared crestfallen, and replied: "Less than I used to." The frank answer would have been a £134,565 ministerial salary, plus sizeable incomes from a house let in Surrey and a trust owning a controlling interest in the construction and housebuilding firm Castlemead Ltd.

That booming caricature, Peter Tapsell, a father of the House who dates back to the Macmillan era but broadcasts as if he tutored RobertWalpole, yearns for immortality in the Gay Hussar. Dining at the lefty haunt in Soho, London, the grandees' grandee was overheard vouchsafing his willingness to be drawn by the cartoonist Martin Rowson to adorn the eatery's political wall of shame. A gracious offer from Sir Pete; indeed, a proposition so beyond caricature that it has yet to be taken up.

Labour's waspish tendency quipped that, on his official visit, David Cameron met, in Barack Obama, "America's answer to Chuka Umunna". The super-smooth Umunna is called “Mr President" by colleagues envious of his rise.

The things you hear: a boyhood acquaintance of Simon Hughes says that at the private Cathedral School, near Cardiff, the Lib Dem deputy leader's nickname was "Vomit", because he was always being sick.

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 19 March 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The end of socialism