Champagne or sham pain

Citizen Dave's bubbly ban is being defied.

Citizen Dave's bubbly ban is being defied by the chain-smoking Simon Burns, the unhealthiest of health ministers. The portly Tory is so fond of a glass of fizz that he's prepared to lay down both his diet and Cameroonian solidarity with austerity for the sake of a bottle of Pol Roger. The gasping Burns was overheard in Westminster by a radar-lugged snout yearning for the stuff to be served at a farewell for one of his department's senior officials. “I hope they have champagne," swooned Burns. "It may not be good for my diet but I do love champagne." I'm old enough to recall when Conservatives claimed to love not champagne but the NHS. You may remember, too: it was before last year's election in May.

Ed Miliband was, I hear, chuffed to learn that he beat Michael Gove on "fanciability" in the Sky News Politicos Top Trumps. But Gove can look down on the foetus-like William Hague, who may mock Danny Alexander, Harriet Harman's ginger rodent. In the land of the geek, the panda-eyed one is king.

To the North Durham fiefdom of Kevan Jones, Fox-hunting member of the shadow defence pack. Nothing is regarded as too good for the workers in a seat held by Labour since 1906, so the constituency party's annual dinner was in the four-star Beamish Hall hotel. The raffle, however,remained a distinctly Old Labour affair.

The chief fundraiser, Jack Doyle, gnarled veteran of the GMB machine, must be one of the last dictators since Muammar al-Gaddafi's death. Doyle's Law deprived the Labour educashon spokesman, Stephen Twigg, of £100 in M&S vouchers. The grand mufti ordered a redraw because the Liverpool MP wasn't present to pick up the prize.

My advice to Twiggy is: let it go. Doyle's Law would be a tougher challenge than party policy on free schools.

Boris Johnson's pledge to take the last of London's bendy buses off the road by Christmas could prove costly for Zoe Williams, the Mayor
of London's foe-in-chief at the Guardian.Williams, I discovered, is a self-confessed fare dodger. Your columnist's eye was directed to a hitherto overlooked admission in the pages of her rag. "I actually had a lot of affection for bendy buses, mainly because evading your fare was so easy that to pay was almost missing the point," wrote Williams in May. "We used to call it 'freebussing'. I said that to the photographer and she said:
‘But they only came in a few years ago. You weren't 12 . . . You weren't even a student. You were . . .' I was 31. Can I be arrested for saying this? Ach, I will just pretend it was a joke." Nurse! My ribs hurt from laughing.

Thieves broke into the office of the City of Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods and drank a bottle of House of Commons whisky destined for the Jones raffle. She's also lost two bottles of wine - another victim of Doyle's Law, because Blackman-Woods, too, wasn't in Beamish Hall for the raffle.

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 31 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Young, angry...and right?