Black mark for Felix the cat

THOMAS CREEVEY his diary
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The Independent Online
Forget Humphrey, the smelly Downing Street cat. The tabloids have gone to war over Felix, the tomcat pet of Sarah Macaulay, Gordon Brown's girlfriend. Snappers were crawling all over the street of her south London home last week, desperate for a "maiow-and-tell" picture. They took polaroids of every moggie they could find, then banged on people's doors to ask: "Is this your cat? Or is it Felix?" Chequebooks were hinted at. One enraged resident finally called the police.

The outcome is a portrait in one of the more down-market Sunday papers, of a cat with a distinctive black mark on his nose. Is it the real thing? Creevey understands that it is. The savage moggie has been officially authenticated.

Whether it will ever move into the Chancellor's flat in 10 Downing Street depends on "Irn Broon's" wedding plans. If so, presumably it will be renamed Claws Four.

Yes, it is a funny business, politics. One minute you are the bee's knees, the next you are the object of fear and loathing. Ann Taylor, the feisty Leader of the House, who takes great pleasure in whacking the Tories (some of whom would pay good money to be given a sound thrashing by her at a discreet Mayfair address) is now hugely unpopular with Labour MPs.

Why so? Because the lads and lasses thought they were being allowed home early for Christmas, on 18 December. Now, they have been told to stick around at Westminster until Christmas week itself, because the Government cannot get through its parliamentary business otherwise.Calamity! MPs forced to work right up to the bell!

Yet at any one time, half of the Government's back-benchers are on their "Brown Week" - the MP's equivalent of the teacher's "Baker's Day". Chief Whip Nick "The Enforcer" Brown sends a great chunk of MPs home for the week, every week, ostensibly to get on with their constituency work, but really to keep them out of the way. You never know what sort of mischief they could get up to if they insist on coming to Westminster. Revolts and that sort of thing.

John Smith House is up for sale. Or, for rent, anyway. An estate agent's sign has gone up at Walworth Road, offering tens of thousands of square feet of office space. Just think of it. Some entrepreneur with a fine sense of the ridiculous could soon be sitting where Lord Larry Whitty of Camberwell, Labour's last general secretary, sat. Or in the Great Shouting Room where meetings of the National Executive Committee took place.

Not any more. The entire party bureaucracy has been moved to Mandelson Tower on Millbank, and the NEC has been downgraded to bi-monthly rubber- stamping exercise for ministerial decisions. Last month, the ministers who sit on the executive got bored and left, rendering this once-mighty body inquorate.

On Creevey's desk lands a document calculated to bring about a nervous collapse in the legal department. Donnygate, The Sequel is full of new scandal about Doncaster council and local politicians. To give you a flavour, the back page is headlined Kev Hughes - More Filth! Kevin Hughes MP, a bearded ex-miner, is a Labour Whip not noted for his gentle touch. The item makes some pretty scorching allegations about Kevin's private life. The author? None other than Ron Rose, the television playwright, who penned last Sunday's episode of Heartbeat, and was himself once a Labour councillor in Doncaster. Diminutive Rose, who writes in an upmarket garden shed (rather like Monty Python's Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson) is a big mate of Cherie Blair's awkward dad, Tony Booth. If Hughes sues, snickers Rose, he will call Tony Blair as a witness.

SPEAKING of sleaze, Channel 4 is to screen a feature-length drama at Christmas about a former television foreign correspondent who stands in the general election on an anti-sleaze ticket against a notorious Tory MP and his vociferously supportive wife. It's called Mr White Goes to Westminster. Ring a few bells? Martin Bell, the MP who crushed Neil Hamilton, still wears his trademark white suit to Westminster, but craggy Bill Paterson who plays Mr White will not wear one. It would only get dirty - like the action - because the hero gets investigated by Pam the Ferret, a sharp tabloid hackette (played by Dervla Kirwan, of Ballykissangel). Bell himself is rather entertained by the whole idea, and has promised to attend the launch party. Beats Bosnia any day.

LABOUR prattles on about standards, but you should have tried the wine at Robin Cook's Foreign Office Christmas soiree the other night. Ugh! And the gnome-like horse-fancier was nowhere to be seen, according to those present. Maybe he was just lost in the crowd.

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