The insider - Kevin Maguire catches Blair in a Euro-gaffe

A Maggie dilemma for the Tories, Tony's EU gaffe and Ming's perfect pyjamas

Maggie is worrying the Tory horses. Runners and riders in the most shambolic race since the Grand National's false start are restless about a dinner on 14 June to rejoice at the 30th anniversary of the Rusty Lady's ascension to the leadership. Potential successors-but-four, a group seemingly including most of the current crop of 197 MPs, are anxiously weighing the pros and cons of attending. David Davis will be cheering, but what about Malcolm Rifkind, Ken Clarke and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh (Shire South)? For their part the Notting Hill set, anxious to avoid coughing up the necessary £1,500 per table, are hunting for other engagements. Any single-parent asylum-seeker self-help groups need a Tory speaker that night? Failing that, the boys could decline on sartorial grounds: the bash is black-tie and these chichi dudes are never seen in anything other than an open neck.

Ruffled Eurofeathers after Tony Blair slipped on a straight banana skin just as he is about to become El Presidente for six months. His crime is the most heinous in the EU book of blunders: he perpetuated a Euromyth. Indignant memos pinging in from Brussels scold him for a speech complaining that a nannying directive is forcing councils to rip out playground rides. No such directive exists, say the Eurocrats, who discovered that Blair based his moan on "stories" in the Europhobic Daily Express and Daily Star.

Decent white wine and nice pieces of roast beef on little Yorkshire puddings in the Locarno Room to mark the retirement of Ed Owen, Jack Straw's special adviser for the past 12 years. The Foreign Secretary told how, in a previous life as Home Secretary, he was warned that scattered across Whitehall there were 50 teams of officials toiling on 50 new projects, each with the potential to bring down the government. "They don't know who they are and neither do you," Straw was told. For his part, Owen recalled how in 2001 Straw carefully studied Labour's transport manifesto commitments, only to be plopped in Robin Cook's job. And how the Lib Dem grandee Ming Campbell, paying a visit to war-torn Kabul, slipped into perfectly pressed pyjamas after using up all the hotel's bathwater.

Left, right, left, right as John Reid, the follicly challenged Defence Secretary, gave his shoulders a brisk military brushing throughout Straw's hour-long Commons dead-parrot act on the EU constitution. Concern is growing for the health of Sergeant Major Reid's scalp, particularly at the dry-cleaners used by Geoff "Buff" Hoon, sitting to Reid's right. Buff glared to no avail as he swept the incoming dandruff from his own suit. John Prescott spent the statement picking his nails, but refrained from flicking shards along the front bench.

High hopes in the left-wing Campaign Group of controlling Blair's destiny, after the little parliamentary club emerged virtually unscathed despite Labour's majority tumbling from 161 to 67. The faction lost four of its 32 MPs but is back up to 30 after recruiting two new members - Katy Clark and Linda Riordan - with four more thinking of joining. Tactics on the Identity Cards Bill are to abstain on the second reading, but then go in for the kill. Cabinet ministers are queuing up to address the group's weekly coven.

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 13 June 2005 issue of the New Statesman, G8 protest: how far should you go?