How to win jobs for the boys

Last week's quiet re-appointment of Dick Spring, MP for Bury St Edmunds, as PPS to Tim Eggar, energy minister, has had a crushing effect on five Tory egos who have been stumbling about the corridors of Westminster.

Why, wonder the members of this group - the only five MPs selected in 1992 not yet to have been given government jobs - were they not chosen for the job instead?

Mr Spring ought not to be too difficult a rival. Last year you may recall, the publication of lively details about his sex life - he was caught in a three-in-a-bed scandal - meant that he was relieved of his secretarial duties.

If you were pipped to a post by such a man, wouldn't you be feeling a teeny bit low?

I have looked carefully at the profiles of the five outsiders and offer the following suggestions to improve their career prospects:

1) Iain Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford: needs to tone down his Euroscepticism, but could be the next in line for the next post. Brian Mawhinney has asked him to sit on the Commons Liaison Committee for European issues.

2) Barry Legg, MP for South West Milton Keynes: a former Westminster councillor (under Dame Shirley Porter's leadership) needs to delete this from his CV. He also needs to tone down the Euroscepticism.

3) Walter Sweeney, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan. Looking better. He started out as a strident Eurosceptic but in recent weeks has appeared to toe the party line.

4) Michael Stephen, MP for Shoreham. Since he has been deselected from his constituency, his future looks bleak. He would be advised to play down his Bow Group activities in future.

5) Michael Fabricant, MP for mid-Staffordshire. He needs a new haircut.

Don't say I'm not helpful, boys!

Political gamble

Can it be that certain members of Sir James Goldsmith's family fear that the tycoon's attempt to launch his new Referendum Party - or break up the Tory Party, depending on which way you look at it - could turn them into paupers? (After all, he has vowed to spend at least pounds 20m on promoting his organisation, which will put up candidates in every constituency at the next general election where the sitting MP is not committed to a referendum.)

I guess so. At least I can find no other explanation for the extraordinary actions of one of his daughters, the other evening. I spied Ms Isobel Goldsmith in a newsagents on the Old Brompton Road, busily filling out not one, but three lines of a lottery ticket, as if her very life depended on it.

Under the hammer

While Phillips, the auctioneers, may be perfectly competent at describing the material artefacts they catalogue for auction, I think they could learn a thing or two when it comes to accurately summing up human achievement.

A catalogue for this month's sale of the political memorabilia of Clive Jenkins, 69, the former president of the TUC is a touch misleading. First it describes him as an erstwhile TUC General Secretary, which, I suspect, will be news to him. Next, the man whose working life as a relentless campaigner to improve the working man's lot is glossed as: "a formidable player in the politics of Labour and a witty and incisive panelist on programmes debating current affairs".

Excuse me. How would Phillips remember Arthur Scargill? A drole raconteur and jolly gameshow guest?

Frankly, a disaster

Pity Monsieur Jean Arthuis, France's answer to Ken Clarke. Mr Arthuis is the Minister of Economics and Finance, who last week had the unhappy task of ensuring that the French populace posted their income tax returns back to the revenue in time for Friday's deadline. So keen was Mr Arthuis, he even went to the Paris central post office at midnight to see the last returns postmarked, and thank the staff.

What he failed to notice, however, was that many of the franked envelopes did not bear a stamp. For some reason, most of the populace believed that the postage was pre-paid. The result is that thousands of tax returns are being "returned to sender"; the wishful thinkers have been given until 22 March to put a stamp on the envelope and send it back ... Poor Mr Arthuis will, presumably, have to visit the Paris central post office again.

Eagle Eye

Divine tactics for holding onto your man

It was, I suppose, inevitable.

Following certain widely reported seedy events on Sunset Strip in Hollywood just under a year ago, between a famously pretty actor and a prostitute, the latter is the one whose career has truly benefited from the incident.

Just like any A-list film star, Divine Brown, the streetwalker who notoriously got picked up by Hugh Grant, gets all dolled up for a glossy photo shoot and gives an "exclusive" interview in this month's edition of the men's magazine Esquire. She is, she says, almost a millionaire by now, having sold her Hugh "story" around the globe. "We both got something out of the deal," she says. "Now the whole damn world knows him. And the whole world knows me."

Including, it would appear, Grant's girlfriend, Miss Elizabeth Hurley, to whom Ms Brown offers some pertinent advice on how to keep her man. "You have to entertain him," she says ... "you have to do sexy things."

Exciting stuff, but I'm not sure Ms Brown practises what she preaches. When asked about her personal ambitions she responds: "I just wanna make sure my kids come up good, that's all I'm trying to do."

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