They weren't quite David and Jonathan, and now they never will be. It is authoritatively bruited at Westminster that Peter Mandelson, Minister without Portfolio (but With Large Ambitions), has fallen out with Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's hard-nosed press secretary.

The two most powerful men in the Government, as they would have us believe, had a spectacular tiff over the Government's handling of the Bernie Ecclestone/Formula One affair. Mandy was all for keeping shtoom and riding out the storm. Campbell, whose tabloid instincts are rather better honed, favoured earlier, and fuller, disclosure. Tony Blair, whose media skills are ... well, imperfectly formed, put his trust in the Prince of Darkness and came a richly deserved cropper.

Who can blame the Keighley Kid for losing his cool? He had to put up with "Crabgate", the silly season story when John Prescott described Mandelson as a crab. He was enraged by the Great Communicator's attempt to steal the credit for No 10's adroit handling of the death of Princess Diana. Small wonder that Ali is tiring of Pretty Peter's presidential airs and graces.

SOME people will seek to buy influence in the most unlikely places. Sainsbury's Plc is sponsoring a free drinks reception in the Jubilee Room at the Commons on 1 December, following a meeting of something portentously called the Westminster Labour Staff Forum, which seems to be a collective of MPs' researchers and allied hangers-on.

This is believable. Who else would turn up for 90 minutes of Sally Morgan, head of the No 10 political office, and David Miliband, head of the No 10 policy unit (spot the difference)? They will lead off a discussion on "What's cooking in the kitchen cabinet?". It is billed as a "great opportunity to hear the thinking behind the Government's strategy" and to question "two of the key players at No 10."

Anybody would need a drink after that. It is greatly to be hoped that the bash is more successful than a similar party at Conservative Central Office for Tory wannabes - also sponsored by Sainsbury's. At Smith Square the drink ran out in very short order. Maybe Labour's fizzy-water fuseliers will be easier to please.

AN INVITATION to the wedding of the year (1998, that is) falls on the doormat. Ed Balls, the Chancellor's economics adviser and one of the most powerful people in the Government despite his boyish charm, is marrying Yvette Cooper, the comely Labour MP for Pontefract and Castleford, one of the few remaining Yorkshire constituencies where the pits are still working.

However, the nuptials will not be celebrated in Brassed Off country, but in the distinctly un-Scargill territory of Eastbourne, Sussex, in a seafront hotel. In the middle of January. Moreover, previous understandings that the drink would be free are now inoperable. It will be a pay bar. Presumably, the economy cannot cope. Or maybe Balls inherited spending restrictions from Kenneth Clarke - not that you can imagine him making his guests buy their own drinks. Ed must have very bibulous friends, quite apart from your diarist.

While we are on the subject of Ms Cooper, Creevey hears that when she was going for selection, Geoffrey Robinson, now the Paymaster-General but then simply the millionaire MP owner of the New Statesman, telephoned a public sector union boss and asked him to back Yvette's candidature. "As one Old Labour man to another," he confided. Robinson Old Labour? Come off it, Geoffrey. As for Ms Cooper, she is so New Labour the paint is still wet. Will she use her married name in politics?

More to the point, who will catch the bride's bouquet? Will it be the lovely Sarah Macaulay, girlfriend of Gordon Brown, who will be there as guest of honour?

IS THERE political cross-dressing going on at Westminster? At Prime Minister's Questions last week, Shadow Leader of the House Gillian "Pay Attention at the Back!" Shephard was kitted out in a bright red jacket and skirt (this is a basic description: Creevey makes no pretence of being alert to fashion trends), while William Hague wore a red tie. Gordon Brown wore one of his collection of blue ties. This way lies confusion.

It is also going the rounds that the massed ranks of new Labour women MPs are not happy about being asked to shout "Hear! Hear!" and wave their order papers during PM's Questions. The Women's Caucus - 101 strong - hates to be seen as deferential to the Great Leader. Don't they realise that is about the only way some of them will win notice? They can't just sit there next to Blair's PPS, Bruce ("I must tell you what the backbenchers are thinking") Grocott, smiling at the television cameras.

It will come as no very great surprise that the old Labour bad hats are unimpressed. "Tell me about these corkers," one offers.

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