Village people: 24/10/2009

Question mark lifted

*Tory spin-doctors looked relieved and pleased with themselves in Westminster yesterday after Sayeeda Warsi, their representative on the most-watched Question Time panel on record, put in a feisty performance that drew good reviews.

They had feared she might bomb under pressure. The original decision was to put up William Hague, but when the BBC announced the date, they realised Hague would be in Washington, and it would have to be Baroness Warsi, left. A lucky accident.

Defence of realm

*John Hutton, the retiring former defence secretary, has done a good job of looking after a loyal aide. His former adviser John Woodcock is expected to be selected today to take over from Hutton as Labour candidate in Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria, despite some furious local opposition. But even if he wins, and weathers the formal complaint that is likely to follow from local party members complaining of a fix, he will not necessarily be Barrow's next MP. Barrow's economy relies heavily on shipyards where they make the submarines that carry Trident missiles. The case for abandoning Trident is powerful, but even talking about it is not a vote-winner in Barrow. Neither is the spectacle of local Labour Party members kicking seven bells out of each other.

Campbell canned

*Further south, Burnley Labour Party has been told, unexpectedly, that they do not have to choose their next candidate from an all-women shortlist. Last time the seat was up for grabs, five years ago, there was a flutter of speculation that Alastair Campbell might translate his well-publicised love of the town's football team into a prop for a political career. That notion was killed off by the imposition of an all-women shortlist which led to the selection of Kitty Ussher, who has decided after only four years that she has had enough. In theory, that opens the way for Campbell. It took about two seconds for him to reply to a text message asking if he was interested, with the single word "No!" Burnley's loss, Hampstead's gain.

Last post

*What does Alan Johnson, the nation's most eminent ex-postie, think about the strikes? Publicly, he is not saying. Privately, he has been heard to mutter about "the Andy Gilchrist school of negotiating". In 2002, Gilchrist was leader of the Fire Brigades Union, a popular group of state employees who went on strike with public backing and lost. Not a resounding vote of confidence from a former general secretary of the CWU.

We really had it tough

*Wimps who are giving up on Labour because they are losing should have been at a wedding party last weekend, featuring grizzled veterans who were around when times were really tough. The groom was Bernard Donoughue, 75, a Downing Street adviser in 1974-79. The bride was Lady Sarah Berry, widow of Sir Anthony Berry, the Tory MP killed in the 1984 Grand Hotel bomb in Brighton.