The whispers

New scandal revealed: our MPs are now paid by the word

The Supreme Leader's warm embrace of Blairites isn't reciprocated on the factory floor. As Uncle Gordie was promoting the Ant and Dec of Blairism, fresh-faced Andy Burnham and James Purnell, Labour backbenchers were jettisoning the last Blairite on the six-strong shop stewards' panel.

Shona McIsaac, for it was the Cleethorpes cyberlass, was booted off the parliamentary committee in favour of that London gel, Dawn Butler (below). McLoser's parting gift was inadvertently to hand top slot to the left's granny, the newly crowned vice-chair Ann Cryer. McLoser lobbied Blairites to vote for her and the Campaign Group veteran as the two lady members to beat Butler. Only one bit - the wrong bit - of her great strategy worked.

The row over the Queen's failure to attend Sir Edmund Hillary's funeral could have been worse. The powers that be intended to despatch five foot-nothing Ian McCartney, until a bigwig thought better, sending the human hillock to the burial of Everest's conqueror being rightly judged risky. Labour has two prominent mountaineers, excluding social climbers, in Kim Howells and Denis MacShane. But they prefer to stick ice picks in each other's heads.

Pssst. That Cameroon Ed "Crazy" Vaizey swallowing a herbal Viagra substitute on TV to improve his poll ratings is still the talk of the palace. The Tory frontbencher is a father-of-one, so I refuse to believe entertaining rumours spread by posh new Labour types, supposedly based on gossip from Crazy's old flames. Crustier Cons tut-tutted that standards are falling under Cameron, though I hesitate to suggest not as far as under John Major. Your correspondent is old enough to recall a Tory MP, Jerry Hayes, flirting with the idea of dressing up for late-night telly. As a six-foot penis.

Word reaches my ear of a spat between the minister for verbosity, Mike O'Brien, and the whip wit Steve McCabe. On getting to his feet in a debate, Mike O'Waffle heard a Scottish voice along the bench mutter what sounded like: "I hope he remembers he's not paid by the word." McChuckle sails as a Birmingham MP but hails from Port Glasgow.

So Hain the Vain proved not so indispensable after all, making way for young Purnell at Work and Pensions plus an older man in disinterred Paul Murphy as Welsh Secretary. Friends of the one-time anti-apartheid campaigner dream of seeing Nelson Mandela wearing a "Free Peter Hain" T-shirt.

Still with the now Out of Work Secretary, the former special adviser Phil Taylor relished his pound of flesh as he helped dig the grave of his old boss with unhelpful media appearances. Taylor's own political ambitions, however, may be equally dead. He moved to Norwich where his eye is on the sinecure of Ian Gibson, nudging 70. Gibbo assures me he's going nowhere. As they say on the BBC, only time will tell.

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 04 February 2008 issue of the New Statesman, God