Diary: Birthday boy Booth

Among the reliably entertaining sub-plots of Tony Blair's reign in No 10 were the occasionally unhelpful outbursts from his troublesome father-in-law and former sitcom favourite Tony Booth.

The man previously best known to those of a certain age as television's foremost "Scouse Git" proved a steady source of column inches courtesy of his ongoing willingness to point out publicly precisely where Cherie's bloke was going wrong. We can only imagine what level of trademark pained smile our former leader reserved for the dishevelled thespian when family obligation occasionally required the two men to shoot the breeze.

Still, I'm glad to report that Tony (the Blair one, that is) was recently kind enough to be on hand to co-host the old rogue's 80th birthday party alongside Cherie at their Buckinghamshire home. The same couldn't be said for another of the veteran actor's high-profile daughters, journalist and campaigner Lauren Booth – who, having been on strained terms with her old man for many a year, was apparently denied an invitation.

By yesterday, those well-known Blair allies at the Daily Mail were said to be circling, having smelt a potential minor scoop, much to the consternation of Booth's fourth wife Stephenie. "They don't get on, so why would he invite her?" she pointed out to one family friend.

* It's hardly a secret that our Prime Minister and his officially "embattled" defence secretary Liam Fox have never been the best of buddies – then again, recent revelations have proved that being a close pal of the good doctor is pretty much a full-time job. Current events have left members of Foxy's old leadership campaign team from 2005 in nostalgic mood, pointing out he was denied a final round face-off with David Cameron by a mere six votes – (the penultimate ballot saw him secure 51 MPs' votes to David Davis's 57). "Davis's support was haemorrhaging and he was a beaten man by the time he scraped into the final round," says one ally. "Had Liam got through, the mutual loathing between him and Cameron would definitely have come to the surface. That would have been a leadership contest to remember." Mind you, had Fox managed to overcome the odds and triumph, just imagine the job title Adam Werritty would have given himself by now?

* While my detailed coverage of the Boris Johnson versus Ken Livingstone pizza challenge this week has regrettably been criticised in some uncharitable quarters as a "crass and blatant attempt to secure a free lunch", it's only right and fitting that I offer my professional verdict. Yesterday the said Boris and Ken pizzas were kindly delivered to the office, where, for the sake of healthy topical debate, I was required to taste both offerings under supervision. As someone famed for his political neutrality, it would of course be inappropriate for a man of my influence to say which proved the more pleasing – particularly with Ken allegedly keen to rig the result before the winner is named at the London Restaurant Festival next week. Still, my new friends at Pizza Express can rest assured that, following yesterday's delivery, I and my esteemed colleagues spent most of the afternoon stuffing our faces in a way only the best freeloaders know how.

* Ever since his heroic turn in the phone hacking saga, Labour's Tom Watson has predictably seen his stock enjoy a welcome rise around the corridors of Westminster. Indeed, party colleagues point out that Watson's been embracing his new showbiz profile with increasing enthusiasm – (I can also personally vouch for this after recently spying the big fella bopping, with visible emotion, to Phil Collins's Easy Lover in a certain Soho nightspot in the early hours). It seems there's little sign of the stardust fading any time soon, judging by news of his early success as Labour's recently-appointed deputy chairman. Watson apparently marked his arrival by sending out a well-worded begging letter to comrades up and down the land in a bid to boost the party coffers, and succeeded raising nearly £8,000 in a single day. "We've never had an email raise so much outside an election campaign," gushes one party staffer. "Tom got off to a flyer." If only I could erase the alarming memory of his Collins-inspired dance moves...

* I fear the former leader of Surrey County Council may have rather too much free time on his hands. Local Tory politician Dr Andrew Povey, who recently stood down from the post, reportedly managed to cause a spot of bother when he announced on Twitter that the authority's new cabinet consisted of "six men, four women, one known gay and no PhD". For the record, Dr Povey insists it was nothing more than a "factual comment" and adds it's certainly not a case of "sour grapes" on his part. Well I'm glad he's cleared that up.


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