The insider - Kevin Maguire enjoys a prank

That serial cabinet resigner Alan Milburn is back as the outgoing leader's counsel on public service reform, a process known, in the Tory era, as privatisation. A Labourite of the recalcitrant tendency, summoned to No 10 for a prime ministerial ear-bashing, was disconcerted to find little Alan mouthing off on Tony Blair's right-hand side. Big Gordie and Prezza are unamused at the re-return of the arch privateer and seek an ear in the PM's shell-like. Oh, how Blair must wish he'd never (de)parted the Red Sea.

The writing is on the wall for the Blairite Sion Simon as the media continue to inflate the Tory balloon that is aristo Citizen Dave. The sage of Erdington has bought his last watermarked sheet from Smythson of Bond Street, now boycotting the posh stationer because yummy mummy Sammy Cameron is a director. No greater sacrifice can a Labour MP make than to lay down his engraved correspondence card for his leader.

Much mirth over a Liberal Democrat propaganda HQ missive containing a denial from the ultra-ambitious Sir Menzies "Merciless" Campbell that his monogrammed skean-dhu was in Charlie Kennedy's back. After recovering his composure, the Guardian's chief politico, Michael White, despatched an e-mail to warn Cowley Street that a prankster was sending fake if obviously amateurish press releases in the name of Ming the Merciless.

Bored with Brussels, tired of trade talks, the Prince of Darkness is reviving his interest in US politics to do what Peter Mandelson does best: meddle. Peevish Pete has asked Democrats across the pond to arrange an encounter with the Illinois senator Barack Obama, touted as the first black president. With any luck, this disclosure won't strain the EU trade commissioner's relations with the neo-con White House.

Our outgoing premier may find himself flying solo as media outlets wonder if it's worth travelling Blairways after a £1,200-per-seat trip to observe him smiling at squaddies in Basra turned into another No 10 debacle. The PM cowered up front on the plane to avoid the invited pack who, once in Iraq, were dumped on a flatbed truck 20 yards away, and thus unable to hear the soldierly chats. Their mood didn't lighten when the flight back to London was diverted to drop off Blair in Sedgefield.

A final word on Christmas concerning First Flatmate Charlie Falconer who, in bushy beard and white-rimmed red, looked a proper Santa until he gave a distinctly unseasonal yo-ho-ho. My Downing Street party pooper witnessed kids seeing past the Lord Chancellor's disguise when he greeted them with a formality usually reserved for visiting heads of state, shaking hands as he bowed his head and politely asking tots, "How do you do?"

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 09 January 2006 issue of the New Statesman, The death of freedom