Labour gathers the wild geese for one more tilt at the throne, but can Alastair and Wee Dougie really liberate the keys to No 10?


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In the circumstances, it is impossible to keep the mind from straying to southern Africa. I refer to the leaked memo from the office of Labour’s Douglas Alexander, the political glove puppet who repented his long stint as Sooty to Gordon Brown’s Harry H Corbett to become what looks like the last Blairite ultra in the toy box.

As Labour’s election campaign boss, Wee Dougie has cast himself as Richard Burton in The Wild Geese, who rounds up a crack group of spent old mercenaries and takes them to Swaziland to rescue an imprisoned African leader. It worked in the movie, but will the strategy liberate the keys to No 10 for Ed Miliband? Time will tell, but for now all one can do is yell a resounding hurrah – or a last hurrah – on reading that Col Alastair Campbell is the chief recruit. Ali will join Ed Miliband and Wee Dougie for a “monthly AC catch-up” at Ed’s elegant Hampstead home for a tryst tantalisingly styled by one paper as “a ménage à trois”. Also recalled is Alan Milburn, the muscular one-time Health Secretary who dreamed of imposing the discipline of market forces on the NHS, and was later brutally relieved of his own 2005 election supremo role when a sidelined Gordon was reactivated for the Ice Cream Rapprochement.

There is no word yet on Lord Levy, “Dr” John Reid and other paramilitary legends of yore. But several lesser figures from the glory days, when Labour’s vote share sank to 36 per cent against as trusted a Tory caretaker as Michael Howard, will be involved. This is a bold strategy, and one we welcome with the same orgasmic delight that will inevitably thrill the nether regions of a Labour movement which rejoiced at Mr Miliband’s pledge to break entirely with its Blairite past. Yet the judder induced by this wild goose chase for power will nowhere be quite as intense, you suspect, as in Downing Street itself.

Election 2015, or the heroic suicide of the two Eds

As life president of the Ed Balls Fan Club – we gather in a small dinghy off the Norfolk coast each April 28th to celebrate Ed Balls Day (the date in 2011 when he mistakenly tweeted his own name) – I was pleased to find him so bullish yesterday. Hours before his scheduled concert debut, playing Schumann for charity, the throbbing Grade III pianist with the third-grade hand gestures told Sky News’s Dermot Murnaghan he “couldn’t give a toss” about speculation that he might be fired as shadow chancellor – a point he cleverly underlined with the subtly different: “I couldn’t give a toss.” Nonetheless, all manner of Labour MPs and bylined thinkers have leapt aboard the “Sack Balls” bandwagon since the Autumn Statement cataclysm for the town crier wannabe. Oyez, oyez, oyez, they have, and with received wisdom now insisting that Ed Miliband cannot win with him at his side I restate this dilemma for the 97th time: does Ed Miliband wish to become Prime Minister? Or would he rather join the Light Brigade and Admiral Horatio D’Ascoygne (who in Kind Hearts And Coronets went down with his ship, saluting, despite the availability of a Fan Club-sized dinghy) on the honours board of heroically suicidal intransigent idiocy? With both Eds in the front of the car, and whatever the impact of Wee Dougie’s Wild Geese, the filmic reference point is the closing scene of Thelma and Louise.

Poor Greg Dyke, too naive for the world of television

Speaking of suicide, you have to sympathise with FA chairman Greg Dyke, who reacted to England’s testing World Cup draw with that throat-slitting gesture. This sort of faux pas is always a danger for those who, being naive about the workings of television, do not appreciate that the camera has a weird tendency to capture whatever it is pointing at. If only Greg had some kind of telly background, however brief or tangential, it would never have happened.

What doesn’t kill you leaves you in good nick, Clegg says

Nick Clegg sparkles boyishly in a Sunday Telegraph interview, telling Matthew D’Ancona of his willingness to form a coalition with Tories led by the IQ supremacist Boris Johnson. Nick feels that the turning point in Lib Dem fortunes  came at the Glasgow party conference, when his party decided “we’re not going  to snap back to our original populist position on tuition fees ” – thanks for official confirmation that this central  plank of Nick’s last manifesto was nothing more than a trivial piece of theatrical posturing. Nick is enjoying his work  more than ever, he says, defiantly adding: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Mm, but does it, though? The stroke that left Ariel Sharon in a coma eight years ago didn’t kill him, but he isn’t lifting a lot of weights.

A glamourous perspective on shipbuilding in Newcastle

Tremendous to find the ever-adorable Sting taking a moment from a rigorous Tantric schedule to plug his new musical, which romanticises shipbuilding on the Tyne, on Andew Marr’s show.

Sting rebutted the suggestion that he may not have a bleeding clue what he’s on about (I paraphrase Marr’s question a little), what with his endlessly glamorous life in the US being about as far removed from his roots in working-class Newcastle as imaginable. Far from it, he explained, this gave him a better perspective than somebody who actually lived there.

He is quite right. Would Paul McCartney have invested “The Frog Chorus” with its poignant yet powerful sense of realism had he researched it by living in a pond?