The Insider - Paul Routledge on an Adonis in search of a seat

Fiona wants a job, Adonis wants a seat, and MPs just wish they could go home

A campaign is under way to find a government job for Fiona Mactaggart, the second-richest Labour MP. It is being masterminded by Baroness (Sally) Morgan, a little helper in Blair's office. Alas, even with the backing of luminaries such as Patricia Hewitt and Margaret Hodge, the beatification process is moving very slowly. Mactaggart, the MP for Slough, is not flavour of the month on the government benches. Perhaps she was too vigorous in her quasi-job as unofficial whip for Robin Cook in the free vote on Commons reform.

Dame Philip Bassett (so named because he is the consort of Lady Symons of Vernham Dean) has been fingered as the Downing Street rubbisher of the Fire Brigades Union. This should surprise nobody. Bassett, director of No 10's strategic communications unit, is a former labour editor of the Financial Times. He was also the author of Strike Free, a paean of praise to the no-strike deals pioneered by his heroes in the electricians' union at the height of Thatcherism. The sequel, Union Free, came to nothing - much like the concept it was designed to celebrate. Symons, an ex-civil service union official, is a middle-ranking government minister, so between them they get around £200,000 a year from the public purse - ten times a firefighter's salary.

Speaking of No 10 staffers, the ironically named Andrew Adonis, Blair's education tsar, is the latest to fancy a career in politics. Unhappily, his wife works for an American company in the south-east "and any constituency I would be offered would be up north; it looks logistically difficult". Offered? Up north? What a patronising asshole. No local party worth a bucket of nutty slack would want him anywhere near it.

The TGWU's race for successor to Bill Morris is hotting up. Barry Camfield, the union's assistant general secretary, has written a manifesto against war in Iraq. He writes: "It's now time that government stood up for our interests and stop giving such uncritical support to right-wing American regimes." Despite the wonky syntax, his meaning is clear: "I am the serious leftie." The other front-runners - Jack Dromey and Tony Woodley - don't want to be identified with new Labour either. Not surprising, when over the past three years every big job in the unions has gone (after secret postal ballots) to the anti-Blair candidate.

Further intelligence from the BBC party for its retiring political correspondent Nick Jones. The twice-disgraced Peter Mandelson made a beeline for the producer of Desert Island Discs and announced haughtily: "I just want you to know that I don't want to be on your programme." He was politely left in no doubt that he was not wanted.

Wailing and gnashing of teeth among MPs who voted for reform of Commons hours so they could skive off on Wednesdays. The chief whip, Hilary Armthtwong, has ruled that from January, Thursday sittings will have a three-line whip, because of the many complex bills in the Queen's Speech. And the programme is so overloaded that there are not enough chairmen to go round. Maybe that could be a role for Fiona Mactaggart - but something tells me that is not what she has in mind.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror

This article first appeared in the 25 November 2002 issue of the New Statesman, World at war