Diary: Wilkes's

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Behind all the protestations about Sir Jerry Wiggin "letting the side down" and "making a fool of himself" over the little matter of tabling an amendment in the name of Sebastian Coe without telling him in advance, lurks a sharper question. Why didn't Coe cover up for Wiggers? The integrity of the great athlete is not in doubt. But cynical souls have advanced another explanation - that "Saint" Sebastian must have temporarily fallen under the spell of Sarah Spiller, the reporter who got the scoop for Dispatches.

Wilkes can now rehearse the facts for the first time. La Spiller had talked - without cameras present - during her exhaustive researches into the Gas Bill with Coe about his worries about the extent of lobbying. He had confided to her the bones of the story of the amendment. Having arranged to interview him - on a Cornwall clifftop - about general issues to do with the Gas Bill, the resourceful Spiller asked him to repeat the story. This time the cameras were rolling. As the film shows, Coe was reluctant at first, but as the waves crashed below, instead of pushing Ms Spiller off the cliff, or shouting: "Stop this recording," the honest Coe uttered the magic words: "He put down my name before I'd even realised it had gone down." And the rest is history.

Jonathan Aitken, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and a great friend of Wilkes's, is not interested in taking unnecessary exercise. After yesterday's Cabinet meeting, as his colleagues set off into Whitehall on foot, he hopped in his green Rover, and was driven 50 yards to the Treasury.

The Tories can't even win at swimming now. The fittest of the Tory backbench, including Anthony Coombs, were lined up to give the Labour Party a drubbing for charity, but a Labour new boy called Ian Davidson took the gold medal. Davidson is MP for Glasgow Govan, where they used to make ships. No doubt he has been using the docks to practice. My pathetic colleagues tell me their excuse is they went weak at the knees at seeing Sharron Davies in a swim-suit. Wilkes has discovered - through assiduous research - that the former Olympic swimmer cum model is now in a frightful television programme called Gladiators. She looked as if she could jump from one end of the Hurlingham pool to the other without touching water.

Jeremy the Red, I mean Corbyn, the bearded lefty, is agitating for improvements to the so-called Family Room at the House of Commons.

The sofas in the place have already been decked out in pink, but that isn't good enough for Jeremy. He now wants to improve the reading of the little blighters who are dragged along to the Commons while their mummies and daddies play at being politicians.

Wilkes took the precaution of inspecting the room. The books are commendably sensible, from the Brownie Guide Handbook to Twenty Names in Crime with colour illustrations.

The House of Commons library has provided the Rupert Bear annual, and for budding lefties there is the Oliver Cromwell Picture Book. Other titles in the children's room are Rosie's Walk, Money Through the Ages, the Puffin Book of Funny Verse (now we know where Giles Brandreth gets his jokes), and Ronnie and the Haunted Rolls-Royce.

All fine stuff. Noddy and Big Ears have been kept out, but no doubt Corbyn will want Little RED Riding Hood. Wilkes inquired what he might choose. "Marx and Engels," he replied.

He complained that there was no video in the room. He brings his own "kids", aged seven, three and two, to the family room sometimes when he is voting, and leaves them in the care of Alan Simpson, another member of the left-wing Campaign Group of Labour MPs. "We do it in shifts. I go and vote, and he looks after the kids. Then he goes and votes," says Corbyn.

Anything else in the Corbyn shopping list? "Lego and Brio and some construction toys, and nursery equipment - slides and a quiet area," he says. (For the uninitiated, Brio is the upmarket designer railway set.)

The changing room for MPs' babies does not even have a table, he says. Wilkes has inspected it, and he is right.

Lord Goodman lives on in his wit and wisdom on the back of the menu card at one of the MPs' handy watering holes at No 4 Millbank, the Atrium, formerly Rodin.

The man-mountain, who was teetotal and never smoked, had an inflationary problem, which afflicts Wilkes. The quotation reads: "Every so often I lose weight and to my utter horror and indignation, I find in the quiet of night somebody has put it back on

Wilkes was studying the card when he spotted another habitue of Westminster with an inflationary problem, Simon Heffer, the amusing deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph. So acute is his sense of humour, he has acquired a plastic shopping bag to carry his things in. It bears the emblem of the shop where he got it: Heffers.

This could start a trend. I recall an old friend called Sainsbury who always bought his wine at the store of the same name, to raise a bit of doubt in the minds of the charming girls he had to supper that he just might be connected. He wasn't. Anyone know of a grocers called Wilkes?

Wilkes is delighted to see that Oxbridge remains the principal training ground for our diplomats. Alistair Goodlad (King's College Cambridge) informed me the other day that of the current ambassadors, deputy ambassadors and high commissioners, 63 went to Oxford, 55 to Cambridge, 12 to Scottish universities, three to universities in Wales, one to a Northern Ireland establishment and 84 to others. He did not say how many went to the university of life, but not many I warrant.

Wilkes feels honour bound to set the record straight on Richard Ryder, the latest senior Tory to be tipped as the scapegoat for his party's lamentable performance.

The fact that the chief whip, Richard Ryder, is suffering from a bad back is well known around the tea rooms. He has courageously put up with the pain from a couple of slipped discs for several years, and made it clear to friends that when he does stand down, he does not want another ministry. Oddly, for a politician who had a reputation as a hell-raiser at university, he has the reputation of being a shy, retiring type. His unfulfilled dream is to become an historian.

But Ryder's possible departure does raise the tricky question of who might be the new chief whip. David Davis, the much-canvassed possibility for the job, may be too valuable to prise out of his job as Mr IGC, though both William Hague, next prime minister but three, and, yes, Michael Forsyth have been mentioned.

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