DIARY : John Prescott puts the party first

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Evelyn Waugh was once asked what he did for his college. "I drank for it," was the succinct reply. He would have been at home around Westminster last week, where the parties were as thick as the leaves that strew the brooks of Vallombrosa. Creevey's scouts were out and about to bring you a front-line report, from the gin-and-tonic-face, so to speak.

Most of New Labour, being champagne socialists, made a bee-line for the GMTV party on the South Bank, because champers was to be had. John Prescott was there, finding it difficult to take his eyes off Lottery person Anthea Turner. He was later to be seen relaxing at the Irish Embassy, where friends noted the truculence index was moving steadily upwards.

Sir Nicholas Scott MP, the noted pavement-hugger, whose exploits at a previous Irish booze ceilidh cost him his Kensington and Chelsea seat, called in to tell the ambassador that he was unable to attend because he had a prior engagement with his supporters. He did not specify in which telephone box.

Easily the most unhealthy party was at the Department of Health, Whitehall, where ministers, civil servants and invited journalists guzzled wine and canapes (at taxpayers' expense, naturally) in a smoke-filled basement room. Some felt so unwell after this ordeal that they were obliged to repair to the Red Lion near by, where a gentleman from the Sun was debagged by a lady (well, they said she was a lady) from a medical magazine. A Health Department spokesman who happened to arrive during this coup de theatre was barred, even though it was nothing to do with him.

Labour's pecking order specialists were surprised to see Ken and Barbara Follett at Clare Short's party. They are in the first division of Blair Luvvies, whereas dear Clare is probably not. Not quite, anyway. Perhaps they are feeling a bit left out of the loop. And what was Clive Anderson doing at the select, boozy Foreign Office thrash in the Grand Locarno Room? It seems he and Nigel Scheinwald, head of the FCO news department, were in a theatrical club at Harrow, together with Michael Portillo. That's Harrow County School for Boys, not the Harrow.

n NOW it can be told. On the day that he was being fed and watered in Chez Nico by Jon Sopel and Mark Mardell of the BBC, Kenneth Clarke was also visited by Christopher Bland, the BBC chairman. Could the Treasury, mused Bland, support the Beeb's plans for a massive hike in the television licence fee? The Chancellor, whose supposedly discreet unflattering remarks about his Cabinet colleagues filled the papers for days, could not believe his ears. Not only was he being feted at a Michelin three-star restaurant, but at an adjoining table, Robin Oakley, political editor of the BBC, was doing some serious troughing with Frank "The Appetite" Dobson, Labour's environment spokesman. Five diners at Chez Nico can easily eat the average weekly wage in a single lunchtime. What kind of "internal market" is the BBC operating? fumed Clarke. It is not likely that he will be rushing to support higher television licences.

IT HAS been one of those weeks for the Malvolio Medal for the Most Self-Important MP. People keep coming up to Creevey to whisper that Sir Patrick Cormack's middle name is "Sanctimony". He may be a sidesman at St Margaret's Westminster, but the reference books do not support this calumny. Once again, the quondam schoolmaster and visitor of old churches will have to wait.

But there is no shortage of nominations for Teresa Gorman, who giggles for Billericay, and wants to force a referendum on Europe down our throats. Why she is so attracted to such a foreign idea is difficult to work out, but grasp it she has with the tenacity (and wit) of a pit bull terrier. "Saint" Teresa wins this week's crossed garters.

IF IT'S not one damn thing, it's another. Rod Richards, the Welsh- speaking former minister in the Welsh Office who was obliged to quit his office in June after allegations of an extramarital affair, now feels compelled to put his pub up for sale. Should you be able to pronounce it, the Ynyscedwyn Arms, in Ystradgynlais, is on the market for pounds 195,000.

Oh, and by the way, the doorstep reply in Welsh to Conservative candidate Boris Johnson, a writer for the Torygraph, reported here last week, translates as: "Go away, you horrible little man!"

TASTELESS gestures department. A publisher in Dundee is sending publicity letters to Tory MPs, inviting them to buy copies of a new detective novel for Christmas presents. Title? Slaughter at the Polls. Not the most appropriate time, considering the close proximity of the non-fictional cull. "How insensitive!" snorted one back-bencher.

THE appointment of Steven "Knobber" Norris as Conservative election supremo for Essex has not impressed every MP in the county. "I'm perfectly capable of losing my seat without any help from him," sniffs a Tory veteran.

IT IS borne upon the breeze that Norman Lamont has divided opinions about his new constituency, Harrogate and Knaresborough. He doesn't like snooty Harrogate, but he does like the ancient market town across the River Nidd. This is baleful intelligence. Mrs Creevey was raised in Knaresborough, and was looking forward to retirement there. Now that badger-baiting is outlawed, it is out of the question.

ENTER the messenger from Conservative Central Office, bearing fatuous new "red eyes" publicity material. You might think this message has been hammered home enough, and you might be right.

Oh, no. That nice Dr Brian Mawhinney has decreed that the West Country must be the proving ground for a double helping of red eyes, linking Labour and the Liberal Democrats. New Lib Dem-Labour, New Danger. By Creevey's side in the Stranger's Bar is Robert Rhodes James, former Tory MP for Cambridge, a respected biographer and a grandee, to boot.

"I love the high intellectual tone of politics these days," he breathes urbanely.

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