A farewell bash for the boys

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The Independent Online
TIM Allan, the Downing Street press aide who has taken the Murdoch shilling - or, to be exact, 2 million shillings a year in the old money - for a job with BSkyB, threw a farewell bash at No 10 last week for his friends. Naturally, Creevey was not invited, but my snout tells me that Allan managed to rub Peter Mandelson up the wrong way. After disclosing that it was he who actually wrote the Minister without Portfolio's appalling articles, not the great communicator himself, he said: "I'm proud to call myself a friend of Peter's, because I'm not even a member of the Royal Family." Mandy signed his farewell card "I love you, Bobby", while Alastair Campbell scribbled "Sod off".

The champagne flowed like ... well, champagne, so it must have cost a pretty penny. It seems that the taxpayer will foot the bill, because the invitations bore the official government hospitality crest and the personal imprimatur of the Prime Minister. He was there glad-handing the guests, of course, including Home Secretary Jack Straw who turned up in black tie.

SO Tom Sawyer is quitting the general secretaryship of the Labour Party, having delivered for Tony Blair. No doubt he will figure in the next honours list, joining his predecessor Larry Whitty (not a vast amount of love lost there) in the Lords. Apart from not actually being called Tom, Sawyer's great claim to fame was his dictum "no say, no pay" - the iron-clad rule that the unions always expected clout in the Labour Party in return for their money. That arrangement is rapidly going by the board.

Creevey now learns that Sawyer wasn't the originator of the phrase at all. That dubious honour goes to Paul Dainton, an official of Sawyer's union, Unison: "He pinched it from a speech I made in Sheffield," says Dainton, who has now quit the Labour Party after 30 years' membership, citing, inter alia, Sawyer's appointment as general secretary as a reward for delivering Unison's support for one member, one vote - "thus guaranteeing the loss of the unions' block vote whilst retaining union funding". You got to hand it to the brothers. They do bear a grudge.

THINK about human rights. Think about Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. Surely, these two are consanguineous. The Foreign Office's glossy 60-page brochure says so. It has lots of happy pictures of black children, apropos of not very much, plus some image-boosting pix of Throbbin' Robin - including one of him smiling and shaking hands with President Suharto of Indonesia, the greatest living killer in South-east Asia. Why should Cook make a point of such a fake relationship, when it is not required? Last time your diarist was in Jakarta, rat capital of the world, Suharto told his generals to send out the soldiers to kill the rats. The military left his office in some confusion. Did he mean rattus rattus, or the government's opponents? It wasn't clear. So they went out and killed a lot of both. This was nothing new. Suharto slaughtered half a million people when he took office in the Sixties. And these are the people to whom Cook has allowed the sale of military jets, plus 56 other arms-related deals.

WHY should Viscount Wallpaper, aka Lord Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, suddenly be asked which lawyers are doing rather well out of the public purse? What consuming public interest is there in the list of shame produced by his officials, identifying the top 20 barristers who earn most from the legal aid system? His motives are not clear. Must be something to do with naming and shaming. What is clear is that the parliamentary question was planted, by Colin Pickthall MP, much-bearded former chairman of Labour's home affairs group and current boss of the North-west Group of Labour MPs, the largest in the House. How earnestly he must desire office.

A HILARIOUS postscript to Labour's Year One. Downing Street thought it would be an excellent wheeze to get 25 local newspapers to send one of their readers to meet and put a question to Tony Blair. The No 10 exercise went brilliantly to plan. Little afterthought was given to the punters, however, who had to be chaperoned by provincial newspaper political correspondents. One reader went down to his West End hotel reception and asked how much he owed for water and electricity, on top of his room rate. He had been told he was responsible for "extras".

YOU will recall that Creevey last week exposed Labour's Millbank HQ staff using their Enigma telephone machine to order World Cup soccer tickets on the Paris hotline. The usual sources said the cheeky initiative failed, but a note from David "Over The" Hill, director of information, to the diary taunts me. "So your highly reliable source didn't tell you that we got tickets which are, at this moment, being haggled over within the portals of Millbank Tower?" Curiouser and curiouser.

Paul Routledge

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