Bombastic butlers and a £150,000 question

The lure of a juicy public-sector salary has proved irresistible for another right-whinge graduate of the Taxpayers' Alliance. Struggling at the back of the cabinet class, Michael Gove is hiring James Frayne, of a PR outfit called Westbourne, to be director of communications at the Department for Education for a six-figure sum. The role is a civil service post and is supposedly politically neutral, which may explain why the fanfare over the Tory-friendly Frayne's arrival omitted his past as campaign director of the Non-Taxpayers' Alliance, where he denounced the public spending that is now about to stuff his bank account and accused Labour of, er, politicising Whitehall. Frayne isn't the first jumper. Susie Squire swapped the Taxpayers' Alliance for regular dollops of taxpayers' cash as special adviser to Iain Duncan Smith.

The cutback coalition's austerity hasn't reached the family home of the zillionaire Conservative backbencher Zac Goldsmith. A visitor approached Ormeley Lodge, his mother Annabel's Georgian pile close to Richmond Park, hoping to speak to the local MP. But then a butler wearing a blue apron over his uniform opened the door and informed the unwelcome caller that Master Zac wasn't at home. Evidently we're not, to borrow a phrase, all in this together - unless, that is, you too employ a butler.

Joanne Cash is determined to keep up appearances. The Cameron Cutie, last heard making a bitter election-night speech after flopping in marginal Westminster North, was booked to appear on Dermot Murnaghan's show on Sky News. She arrived at the studio with minutes to spare,
but declined to perform because, I gather, there wasn't time to apply full make-up. High-definition television is merciless, but coy Cash shouldn't have worried. She was due to sit next to a careworn Peter Goldsmith, the former attorney general, who looks as if he was trampled all over by Tony Blair. Which he was, over Iraq.

Rebekah Brooks is one busy networker. The Sun queen is working her way through the shadow cabinet. Following last week's disclosure of a clumsy encounter between Ed Miliband and Rupert Murdoch's henchwoman, Brooks asked for a meeting with Ed "Bruiser" Balls. A piece by Balls duly followed in the Sun. "Worried of Wapping", as Brooks is known in Westminster circles, is preoccupied by the crusading anti-hacker Tom Watson MP, whom she once insisted Gordon Brown must sack as a minister. The problem for both Brooks and the Labour hierarchy is that "Tommy Gun" Watson is a chubby version of Sylvester Stallone's Rambo: fighting alone in the jungle and taking orders from nobody.

Labour MPs were puzzled to read in the Daily Mail the serialisation of Sarah Brown's account of meeting famous people and Piers Morgan. The Mail turned on her hubby before the May election, so why did she allow it? In Fleet Street, it's known as a £150,000 question, the inquiry containing the answer.

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 07 March 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The great property swindle