Get him to the church on time

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Bit by bit it seeps out. William Hague's father, Nigel, the dandelion- and-burdock magnate, has deep pockets and short arms, like so many of his fellow county-men. On the morning of the Tory leader's wedding, a friend telephoned the hotel where he was staying to ask when he would be coming over to Westminster, where the marriage was taking place.

Nigel grumbled about the cost of a cab to Parliament, which is all of 400 yards away from the hotel. "Dost tha think we could walk it?" he asked. Shrieks of anguish from the women, who did not fancy trailing through the wintry streets in long frocks. "Oh well," he sighed "I suppose we mun get a taxi." If William's like his father, the economy will be safe in his hands.

THE Westminster crypt is busy these days. Next to the altar is Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman and MP for somewhere in the north of Scotland. But, because he is a divorcee, he can't actually marry his intended, Rosemary Vetterlein, there. The happy couple will have to make do with a blessing, as did Andrew Mackay, Tory Ulster spokesman (divorced), and Julie Kirkbride (curvaceous former political correspondent).

Lovely Ms Vetterlein, once a volunteer worker in Paddy Ashdown's office, is rather better known as the Lib Dem candidate at the recent Beckenham by-election who deprived Labour of a famous victory over the Tories. Don't expect Tony Blair to attend.

A pretty amorous place, Pantsdown's office. Nick South, his one-time media adviser, is living with Ashdown's former secretary, Becky Vye. It is also an alarming place jobwise. Sean O'Grady, Paddy's head of press and policy, is quitting after only three months following a slight difference of opinion with his boss, the former SBS officer (stands for Special Bonking Squadron).

SOME MPs are sporting rather attractive French silk ties with matching top-pocket handkerchiefs. Very smart, especially for Labour members who usually wear red ties, often with a trade union such as TGWU Northern Region, Branch 5/39. It seems that these fetching items of haute couture are a Christmas gift from the Saudi Embassy, doled out to MPs who support - or show a convincing interest in - the Arab cause. How many of these will find their way into the Register of Members' Interests next year, one wonders?

WAGGISH Labour MPs are asking: "Will Hattie still be here next Christmas?" (They refer to Harriet Harman, the Social Security Secretary.) Answer: "Yes. It's social security they are abolishing, not her." And who will be the new Mr Scotland, the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament due to be elected in May 1999? Answer, Donald Dour (they must mean Dewar), the current Scottish Secretary. Why not Auld Reekie himself, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who also fancies the job? Answer: "Because Donald doesn't have an estranged wife in the Scots capital to give him constant bad publicity." That's true. Dour's wife ran off with Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor, many years ago, when he was still Mr Modest.

MY INTREPID spies - a posse of thirsty new Labour MPs who have as much to do with nouvelle cuisine as this diary has with creme de menthe - have discovered that the 26 bishops in the House of Lords have got their own bar. Hallelujah! That is serious elitism. Imagine the scene : "A snifter, York, before we go into the chamber?" "Most kind. A large gin and tonic."

No wonder they walk around with those big sticks to lean on. What they should be drinking, of course, is Shepherd Neame's Bishop's Finger, a fine tipple from Kent, the hopyard of England.

YOU CAN'T win them all. Roger Stott, MP for Wigan, followed up his successful general election letter to all 18-year-old new voters with a Christmas missive thanking them for their support for the Labour government. Nicola Alton, a student at St Hugh's, Cambridge, sent him back a demolition job on Tony Blair's policies towards lone parents, education fees, student grants, benefits for the disabled, and so on. She pointed out that she hadn't voted Labour, and if Stotty had to write such daft letters, could he at least spell her name right. It's not "Nocola". Otherwise, Merry Christmas.

THIS DIARY is making only one New Year resolution: not to be beastly to Sir Patrick Cormack, the Commons Malvolio, Harrumpher in Chief and number two to Gillian Shephard as Shadow Leader of the House. Oh my god! Can anyone be so self-disciplined?

IT REMAINS for Thomas Creevey to wish one and all a happy and successful New Year.

Paul Routledge

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