How long before Andy and Steve fall out? Place your bets

The Inside Track from the Westminster village

The Tory spin machine is in place now that the one-time News of the Screws editor Andy Coulson is at his desk, hired to sell Druggie Dave to an increasingly sceptical meeja. Bets are being laid on when Andy C and marketing guru Steve Hilton, a Dr Evil figure used to issuing the orders, fall out. The pair share a cool half a million quid, with a turf war between the Tories' expensive answer to Campbell & Mandelson a good bet. Personally, I'd like to be a fly on the wall when Andy C bumps into the shadow business bod, Alan "Dinky" Duncan. At Rupert Murdoch's summer bash last year, Andy C was overheard declaring, "I never want to speak to that man again," after a discussion with Dinky about underage sex. What on earth was said?

Government whips are going home to No 12, Big Gordie evicting the spinners who squatted in the Downing Street terrace since Ali Campbell's land-grab during the reign of that Blur chap. Mr Whippy, Geoff Hoon, negotiated the return to the traditional lair as part of the all-work-no-play new dusk over Britain. Unlike with the whips' office in the Commons, few passers-by will be disturbed by the squeals of rebels requiring corrective therapy. The street's primary tenant reputedly enjoys the sound of suffering.

To the Ealing Southall by-election, where Labour's campaign chief, bruiser Tommy "Two Dinners" Watson, insisted the manager of an Indian eatery remove a Tory poster before enjoying his considerable patronage. The oppo, Grant Shapps, a Hugh Grantish smoothie, was so bold as to brief the shadow cabinet he "will" (not "might") overturn Labour's 11,500 majority. We'll see. Intriguingly, the Tories are fighting Ealing as "Cameron's Conservatives" but Sedgefield the same day as the plain old Conservative Party. A return to "one-nation" Toryism remains a long way off, Druggie Dave seemingly acknowledging that northerners don't take to Home Counties boys.

Druggie Dave's off to Rwanda for a photocall with poor people to prove that he cares a lot. In tow will be the Times, Sun, Mail and Grauniad, but curiously not the Torygraph. Yet Cameron will depart without a jolly bon voyage from all of his team. My informant mumbles how Tory staff were asked to cough up £800 to join Dave of Africa on his four-day spin. Sounds to me more of a mini-break than a fact-finding mission.

Distressing scenes on the Thames when MP4, billed as the world's leading parliamentary band (the only one in the world?), played on a cruise. The energetic twisting of the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls (left), led colleagues to speculate what age he started to dance like his dad. Mr Balls is 40.

That nasty, venomous Campbell is horrid to your correspondent in his diaries. I've a good mind to sue. He certainly knows how to hurt a hack. Campbell hasn't slagged me off. In fact, he hasn't even mentioned me. The swine.

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 16 July 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Chavez: from hero to tyrant