Iain Dale

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Oh to be a member of the non-political classes. Over the weekend, I attended a dinner party, where I was asked what I made of the candidates for the Tory leadership. I started to talk about David Davis when someone piped up: "Isn't he that religious nutter who used to present Grandstand?" Collapse of entire dinner party. But it shows what Davis is up against. He has to contend with people thinking not only that he runs the Football Association (David Davies), but also that he's an ex-Coventry City goalkeeper and ex-television presenter who now thinks he's the Son of God (David Icke).

It was nice to see Robin Cook wandering along the Mall the other day, with his twin pooches and pooper-scooper in his pocket - at least, I think it was a pooper-scooper. He is clearly a bit out of practice, as he was seen untangling the dogs' leads twice within a few yards. From the knotted problems of the Middle East peace talks to the knotted problem of untangling dog leads. What a comedown.

Aficionados of the cult TV drama A Very British Coup will be surprised and disappointed that its author, the affable MP for Sunderland South and defender of the Guildford Four, Chris Mullin, has allowed himself to be censored in its recently published paperback reissue. Apparently, Mullin insisted on replacing the word "motherfuckers" with the more anodyne "nincompoops" to describe the CIA. But I can gladly report that Mullin's time as a new Labour minister (he resigned after the election) has not rendered him part of the establishment after all. The truth is, his mother complained about the word in the original edition, and so, to please his mother, he changed it.

I was rather astonished to see Michael Ancram launch his leadership campaign at the Soho offices of the Tories' advertising agency, Yellow M. Surely a conflict of interest if ever there was one. After all, it was Ancram who hired it in the first place. Ancram's campaign has got off to a somewhat shaky start, with his campaign manager, Adam Newton, departing on holiday a mere five days after his candidature was announced. Mind you, Newton has spent two years as press adviser to Ann Widdecombe, so if anybody needs a break it's him.

Rumours that Ancram is being supported surreptitiously by William Hague would appear somewhat wide of the mark. Jo-Anne Nadler's biography of Hague reports an exchange between himself and a policy adviser at the time of Ancram's appointment as party chairman. "You do realise he's a complete chump, don't you?" asks the adviser. "But he's very solid," replied Hague. Only that's not quite the whole truth. In the original manuscript, the words "Yes, I know but . . . " appeared at the beginning of Hague's answer. Mysteriously, they disappeared from the final version.

Well done to Karen Buck, the Labour MP for Regents Park & Kensington North, who has done a power of good for the reputation of backbenchers. In the reshuffle, she was promoted to the post of junior whip. But as she was away at the time, nobody told her. The announcement went out but, to her credit, when she found out, she told the PM that she was having none of it, viewing her role as a constituency MP as more important. It's nice to see at least one member of the House of Commons not intent on climbing the greasy pole and taking her role as a parliamentarian seriously.

How wonderful to spot new Labour's pollster-extraordinaire, Philip Gould, emerging from the County Hall health club of a morning. I'm not sure what a focus group would make of his flustered but radiant appearance, but I was told that the ladies who breakfast there were most impressed by the effects of his workout. Alastair Campbell's place in Lauren Booth's affections may soon be under threat if these workouts continue to have such a stunning effect on Gould's body beautiful.

Iain Dale is the owner of Politico's Bookstore. Paul Routledge is on holiday

This article appears in the 02 July 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Best of young British