The insider - Kevin Maguire rides shotgun beside Blair

A defenestration for the PM's official voice and a coronation for Jack Straw

Farcical scenes during Deputy Blair's ride to the White House for a powwow with Sheriff Bush ended in the defenestration of Tom "Walter Mitty" Kelly, the Premier's unpopular official voice. Blair ultimately sided with the travelling media posse after the Sky political heavyweight Adam Boulton forcefully objected to Kelly's command that pens be downed and a briefing treated as "deep background", barring attribution of views to the very PM uttering them. Talks between No 10 and the Westminster lobby later failed to smooth ruffled feathers. And the Daily Telegraph won't pay the £1,300 bill to fly Blairways after its man was locked out of the White House. Kelly's Downing Street days may be numbered.

The end of an era is nigh for the annual TUC bloodletting at an out-of-season seaside resort. The general secretary, Brendan Barber, has decreed, after 137 years of fratricide every September, that a biennial murder-fest will be quite sufficient in future. The switch acknowledges that Congress House is likely to be marginalised by the proposed three-way marriage of Amicus, T&G and GMB into a 2.5 million-member monster. Labour's high command is similarly suffering sleepless nights over

the prospect of the Tyrannosaurus Union, fearful its combined vote will allow it to rule the party's annual conference.

I learn that Jack "the Lad" Straw is struggling to mask his inner contentment at the turmoil engulfing the European Union. Tipping up early at the BBC's Millbank studio after the Dutch Nee, the Euro-suspicious Foreign Secretary's private demeanour was somewhat at odds with the official stiff upper lip later displayed on TV. The heir of Canning, Palmerston and Bevin idled away the minutes by sitting, feet on a desk, with a gold-coloured plastic toy crown perched on his head. The coronet, plaything of a BBC staffer, perhaps also signifies our boy still harbours hopes of the Labour leadership. That, my lad, is pretentious.

The likelihood of toiling in the Tory leader's office is posing an unexpected dilemma for Iain Dale, chief of staff to David Davis, front-runner for the most thankless job in politics. Dale is agonising over whether to renew his season ticket to watch West Ham United. Will he be able to get to games or will romping across politics with the ex-SAS reservist occupy his Saturdays? Dale, incidentally, is the only fan at proletarian Upton Park to take his seat a good hour before kick-off to scoff a bag of cream cakes.

Maggie Jones, the Blairite spectacularly defeated at the May election by a rebel recovering from a brain tumour in what was Labour's safest Welsh seat, is to suffer another body blow. Unison is pulling the Labour loyalist off the National Executive Committee, in favour of the less pliable figure of its own deputy general secretary, Keith Sonnet. Jones, it transpires, was worried at the dearth of wine bars in Blaenau Gwent. MPs crying crocodile tears at her absence from the Commons tearoom point out that she will, at least, be spared the inconvenience of seeking a suitable bistro in the valleys.

The fresh-faced Tory Mark Lancaster, victor in Robert Maxwell's old stomping ground of Milton Keynes North-East, boasts he took only two minutes to unscrew the nameplate on his new constituency office building. What was it formerly known as? "Blair House".

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 20 June 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Latin America rises up