Comment: Gravy worries over Cook book

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Indy Lifestyle Online
CREEVEY hears that the author John Rentoul has signed a contract to write another biography of Tony Blair, for publication in 2002. At least he will still be in place, unless the poisoned-umbrella fusiliers from Number 11 break in. Not so, perhaps, Robin Cook. The Foreign Secretary is so much under siege that his biographer John Kampfner worries for the future of his oeuvre. "Will Cook still be in post in May, when I have to deliver my book?" he is asking anxiously.

TEAMS of investigative reporters want to know where Cock Robin really was during his so-called "lost weekend", when he slipped home for the weekend during the Queen's visit to India last autumn. The hurtful slur is that the Foreign Secretary flew home to share his nest with his lover Gaynor Regan. Creevey's snouts can reveal the mundane truth. Cook was at the races. Yet again.

Nobody minds his passion for the gee-gees, although it does give rise to some confusion. Westminster insiders who shake their heads at "Throbbin' Robin's" handling of a scandal that threatens to engulf his Foreign Secretaryship keep saying: "He's not at the races." This is estuarial English for being several lengths behind reality. But he was at the races. Maybe he should gratify his obsession by sponsoring a race. The Cook Stakes. For fillies.

THE Hamilton saga rolls on. Cash-strapped Neil Hamilton went to Bedales School to talk to the young gentlemen, and was dismayed to learn that he would be paid no fee for his sage advice to the aspirant politicians. Was wife Christine found wanting? No, she was not. The Tatton Tigress promptly dived into the boot of her car, pulled out piles of her book about British Battleaxes, of which she is such a paradigm, and began flogging signed copies. The young gennl'men fell so much under her spell that they spent all their tuck-shop money.

What a woman! A pity, really, that Martin Bell did not resign and force a by-election over the legal bill affair. Christine would have been the perfect Tory candidate. Just like the television drama Mr White goes to Westminster, it would have been another case of life imitating art.

TONY Blair is going into reverse thrust. Instead of spending the taxpayers' money to fly Cherie round the world, he is demanding that the media pay. Through a very large nose.

Political journalists bidding for a place on the Prime Ministerial aircraft to the United States this week have been told they must fork out pounds 3,500 for the fare alone - hotels and Mandelson Added Tax come extra. True, they are flying Concorde, which Creevey understands to be a superior form of airborne horseless carriage, but that still seems steep for a simple transatlantic crossing.

Perhaps the whole business of ministerial trips should be contracted out to Richard Branson. He could surely sort out the hoo-ha over what to call the Cabinet's girlies. Not all of them are "partners". At least one, surely, is a plain, old-fashioned mistress. Well, not plain maybe, but you get the idea.

LATEST parliamentary wheeze: the nap rota. During last week's all-night sitting of the Commons committee on the minimum wage, the first such marathon since the election, Labour gave its MPs an hour off in turns to get their beauty sleep. Blair's Babes could be found in the Ladies' Retiring Room, gently playing on the nose flute. John Bercow, the excitable new Tory member for Buckingham, found it difficult to contain his displeasure. "We thought he was succumbing to a new form of Mad Bercow disease," said a worried Labour member.

TWO MPs in a Bed Scandal! Five MPs and an MoD mandarin are recovering this weekend from the ardours of service life in the Arctic, including sharing double bunks.

Huddled together in temperatures of minus 20C, the parliamentarians slept Ashby-style to economise on space in their four-man tents. They were out on winter manouevres with the Royal Marines. The sole Tory MP, Michael Fabricant (Sensitive Tendency, Mid-Staffs) didn't get a wink of sleep. "The Labour MPs snored something awful," he complained. "I know I don't snore." Really? How does he know?

FINALLY, do you remember the pigeon lofts of Ryhope, county Durham, that were to be scheduled as listed buildings to prevent the local allotments being sold to a property developer? The pigeon fanciers were due to be evicted this weekend, but a mystery benefactor has come forward to buy the two-acre plot and keep the ex-miners' fancy alive. A result! Creevey 1, Forces of Naked Capitalism, 0. Then defeat was snatched form the jaws of victory when I discovered that the unknown philanthropist was Frazer Kemp, the town's new MP, who is nether naked nor a capitalist. "The lads are so pleased they're going to name a pigeon after me. Ah'm really chuffed," he cooed.

Paul Routledge

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