The insider - Paul Routledge finds the flour bomb's true victims

Mediator missing at Loch Fyne, flour-bomb fallout hits drinkers, and hacks' unisex footie

The real story of the incident at Loch Fyne, where John Prescott and Gordon Brown are supposed to have discussed the succession to Tony Blair, concerns not who was sitting in the back of the limousine but who was not. Douglas Alexander, the political bridge between Brown and Blair, was not on hand to mediate in the regicidal talks because he was sitting in the back of John Reid's car on the way back from the John Smith memorial event. The pint-sized Cabinet Office minister would doubtless have thrown a veil of discretion over the incident, but the Scottish hacks, once denounced by the Prime Minister as "unreconstructed wankers", were too quick off the mark.

Naff non-hero of the Commons flour-bomb outrage? Chris Bryant, self-promoting, Y-fronted star of gay internet website fame. The MP for Rhondda grabbed the headlines in the Western Mail with an overexcited account of "My brush with death". Labour backbenchers had steam coming out of their ears as they passed round copies of the paper.

The first casualty of the incident was, inexplicably, the door from Strangers' Bar to the Terrace of the Commons, locked permanently on the orders of the Speaker, "Metal Mickey" Martin. It is not clear whether the authorities fear that terrace topers are at risk from bar flies, or vice versa. But nothing surprises me about this mad gothic shed any more. It is entertaining, however, to watch MPs wrestle with the door handle because they are too lazy to read the eye-level notice of closure. Second casualty: the right of MPs and peers to bring guests into the Commons gallery. But Speaker Martin moved first against lobby correspondents, with an immediate month-long ban, to be "reviewed".

Considering the fuss that the so-called Lezzy Lobby made over plans to install unisex toilets in the Westminster Press Gallery, it comes as a welcome surprise to hear that mixed football is on the agenda. The sisters recently restarted their girly five-a-side tournament at a secret perv-free venue, under the watchful eye of Pippa Crerar, the new political editor of the Daily Record, and are keen to take on the boys. But not lads v lasses. Talks are under way to determine the correct gender balance of the teams, presumably guided by experts in the field from Labour Party HQ in Old Queen Street.

The struggle for Labour's soul will just have to wait a bit longer. Austin Mitchell MP was due to host the launch of a "major" new book on this pressing issue at the Commons, but failed to show. He had gone back to his constituency to sort out problems arising from a Tory-Lib Dem poll pact for the council elections. On his arrival in Grimsby, he found a letter from his whip expressly forbidding him to leave Westminster.

The annual Commons pool tournament is upon us again, and it promises to be a brilliant event. Apart from the actual play, that is. Steve Davis was the guest draw at a social launch on the Terrace. It costs £10 to enter, an inflation-busting ten times more than last year. I have been given a "bye" in the first round, on the grounds that I would not otherwise make the second round, when I am likely to be drawn against the sports minister, Dick Caborn. This is a terrifying prospect. He arrives with a caravan of Millwall-style "supporters" from his private office.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror

This article first appeared in the 31 May 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Another fake