Diary: A new phase opens in Labour's civil war

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The Independent Online

Neatly timed for the publication of the 127th book about the first instalment (Jonathan Powell's), the Labour Civil War Mark II began at the weekend. Leading the neo-Blairite cavaliers was Peter Hyman, the Mr Tony adviser turned inner-city Mr Chips and Newsnight sage, who deflected any suspicions about his friend David Miliband's sense of entitlement by accusing Little Ed of "stealing his brother's crown". Ed's victory was a "catastrophe" for Labour, says Peter.

Meanwhile, the neo-Brownite snipers are predictably livid at Ed Balls's exile at home affairs. Charlie Whelan, who holds Mandy responsible for the election defeat for which Mandy blames Little Ed, regrets the castration of Balls. So does the Daily Mirror's Kevin Maguire, who attended the Smeargate pow-wow with Charlie and Damian McBride "in a purely private capacity", but publicly accuses Little Ed of being timidly bullied into making Alan Johnson shadow Chancellor.

After a fortnight, it is clear that Ed M's paramount task isn't preparing for government, but creating a cordon sanitaire between these two endlessly engaging factions in which the party can survive. If Santa is fretting about what to give him this year, I'd suggest a biological suit in the Dulux shade known as UN Peacekeeper Blue. Probably wise, though, not to wait until Christmas Eve to deliver. The germ warfare has begun.

For all that, there is one patch of common ground that offers hope of a truce between the two Eds. It has been revealed that both men dated the minxy BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders in the 1990s. If Stephanie has a care for a functioning opposition, she might warn them that unless they agree to play nice, she'll be obliged to reveal which was the more impressive when it came to neo-erogenous growth.

* After a weirdly sluggish start, the Mail group is at DefCon 1 over the removal of child benefit from its core readers. The Daily Mail's initial response the day after the announcement was a leader that perplexed students of editor Paul Dacre with its unwontedly judicious pulling of punches. Thankfully by Wednesday he had relocated the knuckle-duster. The world is quite confusing enough without Paul donning kid gloves to treat a Middle England-tormenting Chancellor like a beloved, if errant, son.

* How public-spirited of Diane Abbott to accept a shadow government job (public health) at the cost of her berth on BBC1's This Week. The first show of betting sees Clare Short installed as 100-30 favourite to replace her as the Hylda Baker to Polly Portillo's Arthur Mullard. Margaret Beckett and Hazel Blears next on 11-2, with Gisela Stuart quoted at 8-1 to add some Germanic muscle to Polly's Hispanic charms. Former GMTV dolly bird Gloria Del Piero is a 12-1 shot, but the value of the field is the late Gwyneth Dunwoody, so much livelier dead than all the live contenders combined, at 33-1 "with a run".

* I am saddened to see Alan Sugar attacked by a contestant on the forthcoming Sports Relief Does The Apprentice. Kirstie Allsopp's implication that Lord S was less than civil during filming seems outlandish, but one of many impressive things about Lord S, as befits a maxima cum laude graduate of the Warthog's Finishing School, is a gift for defusing absurd allegations of ungallantry. "What a Lying cow @KirstieMAllsopp ..." he tweet- ed (Warthog's was bombed before the Correct Usage of Upper Case Letters course was completed). "She is too far up Emma Freud's ar.." he gnomically added. How adorable the platformed-shoed Fauntleroy of the boardroom is.