Paul Routledge

All that truckling to Buckingham Palace by new Labour, all that pretence of caring about Princess Diana, now proves to have been futile. The royals prefer the real thing. Overheard by one of my many spies at the Press Complaints Commission's tenth anniversary bash (to which your columnist was sensibly not invited), a conversation between slate-hewn Austin Mitchell, MP for Grimsby and Old Farts, and Camilla Parker Bowles. He was introduced by Lord Thingummy as old Labour, and a smile lit up Camilla's face as she enthused: "Oh good! We love old Labour!" So, John Smith by royal appointment. Eat your heart out, Philip Gould.

In a well-ordered world, Tony Blair would take to the rostrum at his discretion. But at the weekend party conference in that monstrous concrete shed in Glasgow, he is obliged to play second fiddle to Gordon Brown. The great helmsman would have liked to speak on Friday, and then get the hell out of Scotland back to Chequers for the weekend. But Ir'n Broon has urgent business in Washington with Alan Greenspan, the Federal Bank boss, so he has to do his election-rousing bit on Friday, leaving the Sunday stint to Blair.

Fortunately, Brown will not be bumping into racecourse-trilbied Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory defence spokesman, in town for talks with Donald Rumsfeld, Dubbya's defence secretary. Duncan Smith, an ex-Scots Guards officer, is going with his burly minder Mike Penning, the former squaddie who now works for Central Office. They are just the latest in a procession of Tories across the pond.

Richard Littlejohn, fellow scourge of the leader's former little helper (who should now be known as the little hinderer), has written a book, presumably titled You Wouldn't Believe It. He is looking forward intensely to being reviewed in the Guardian as homophobic and xenophobic. Oh, come on now Seumas "Shameless" Milne, Mandy's chief representative on the paper, don't disappoint him! Incidentally, why do they call him "Shameless"? Could it be anything to do, I wonder, with his modest workload?

MilIbank is worried that the Hartlepool Follies are getting out of hand and could cost Labour the seat. I have good news for Mandelson. Arthur Scargill has had secret talks with his rival socialist contender, Mike "The Mouth" Elliott, shock-jock DJ, about who should stand. There seems to be a problem of vanity; the redisgraced ex-minister might benefit.

An indigent rival to this magazine, calling itself Tribune, is inviting selected guests to a fundraising dinner next month in honour of Michael Foot. The cost is a mere £90. Tribune promises "well-known celebrities" (a tautology, surely). The bash takes place in the "amazing ballroom location" of the train drivers' union HQ in Hampstead, north London, where Tribune is now located after being expelled from the TGWU offices in Gray's Inn Road. Is this the same Aslef whose general secretary, Dave "Mick" Rix, has yet to abjure publicly his membership of the SLP, Arthur's barmy army?

The Blairite burghers of Islington have finally agreed to put a plaque on the wall of a house in Colebrooke Row, near Angel Tube station, commemorating the birth of the Social Democratic Federation, the first avowedly Marxist political party in Britain. In addition to its founding father, H M Hyndman, the SDF also produced leaders of the quality of Tom Mann, George Lansbury and John MacLean. The building is a private house: the owner insisted on no ceremony and no publicity, but the plaque honours these pioneers.

A pity, then, that Islington council still refuses to restore to public gaze a plaster replica cast by Berthold Lubetkin of the bust of Lenin that once adorned the town hall. It languishes in a dusty underground storeroom of the local museum. Yet Lenin lived with Nadia Krupskaya in nearby Holford Square. I am indebted to the Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library for these snippets, as the Islington council refugees from socialism ought to be.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror