Chubby-Chops for the chop?

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The Independent Online
A SHAKE-UP in the Scottish Office is on the way. Downing Street is alarmed at the way the ScotNats are breaking down Labour's door in the opinion polls, and wants to beef up the Edinburgh operation. The big- name casualty looks like being Brian Wilson, Minister for Education and Industry north of the border, who headed Labour's Rapid Rebuttal Unit before the election. No doubt he will deny your diarist's report before the ink is dry, but the word at Westminster is that Chubby-Chops Wilson, a one-time fierce opponent of Scottish devolution, is regarded as a political liability as the Scots move towards elections for their own parliament. He will be moved to another department. Wilson's critics would dearly love to replace him with Dr John Reid, former sidekick to Neil Kinnock during his time as party leader, who is making a good fist of a difficult job at the Ministry of Defence. Too good to move him, by insider accounts. There is a distinguished precedent for an ex-Communist to perform well at the MoD. He is called Denis Healey.

JOHN Major is going off to the United States for a lecture tour and a short holiday with Norma. He may have been promised pounds 750,000 by publishers HarperCollins for his memoirs, but the Americans are not quite to ready to part with their dough to hear him speak. Creevey hears that he invariably earns a mere "four figures" for the benefit of his ex-prime ministerial wisdom, "and sometimes five". Baroness Thatcher, by contrast, commands tens of thousands for her Cold War rantings. Maybe the lesson is that if Major weren't so sensible, he might command higher fees. Oh, and he won't be playing golf with his ally, the former President George Bush. Major's bad knee makes it too painful for him to stand for very long.

CULTURE Secretary Chris Smith is bursting into print with Creative Britain, a tour d'horizon (where else) of "the upsurge of British creativity". Few will get past the cover, by Damien Hirst, which looks like a napalm attack on a paint shop. The title of Hirst's work is really cool: beautiful, all round, lovely day, big toys for big kids, Frank and Lorna, when we are no longer children. And don't turn the book over, because on the back is Hirst's beautiful snail crunching under the boot painting, mercifully reduced from its original 7ft to a few inches. Not much sign of the snail. Actually, Smith debunks Cool Britannia in the book. So why the absurdly modish cover?

JOHN KAMPFNER's biography of "Cock" Robin Cook is finally complete. Complete? The Sierra Leone saga won't go away, and nobody knows whether the Foreign Secretary will find a P45 at the bottom of one of his red boxes, if he finally works his way that far down. "Well, yes, there'll have to be an extra chapter," mumbles Kampfner. (He's on voice training with his new employers, the BBC.) He's jolly upset that his publishers have rejected his title, which was Restless Radical. You can see their point. It will simply be called Robin Cook. Booksellers will no doubt display it in the romance section.

KEN LIVINGSTONE is taking the fight for the mayoralty of London to the innermost sanctum of the enemy this week. Well, to Weston-super-Mare, birthplace of his great rival Lord Jeffrey Archer. He will address the clothing workers' conference there the day after Labour reveals its plans to stiff the unions on workplace ballots for recognition. This is a sore point with THIGMOO (This Great Movement Of Ours) - principally because the rank and file find the entire government front bench too boring for words. Incidentally, Archer could return the compliment by speaking to the Brent Trades Council, truly a hot-bed of socialism.

LATE one night last week a rumour swept the parliamentary lobby at Westminster that Sir Edward Heath MP, Father of the House, Chief Tormentor of Crazy Horse Thatcher and sundry other titles, had died. Obituaries were hurriedly dragged out and stories prepared on the demise of the grumpiest Prime Minister since Attlee. Only then did one old veteran ask the obvious question: is it true? The only way to make sure was to ring up the old man. He answered the telephone in person. "Me, dead?" he boomed down the line from Cathedral Close, Salisbury. "I'm in fine fettle!" Perhaps he should have left it to the answerphone, then he might have had the inestimable pleasure of reading his own obituaries - and no doubt correcting them.

IN the wake of yesterday's Wembley Cup Final between Newcastle United and Arsenal, Chief Whip Nick Brown (Newcastle on Tyne East) threw a great bash at 12 Downing Street for the football fraternity. However, the Geordie chants were nothing on one filtering out of Ulster. When the Catholic club Cliftonville met a Protestant team the other day, supporters shouted in unison: "Cross-border bodies with executive powers!"

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