Hague stays vague on Ffion

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The Independent Online
William Hague, the Boy Leader of the Conservative Party and his fiancee Ffion Jenkins are together in his constituency in the Yorkshire Dales this weekend, prompting the question: are they living together? Caught off guard, a Tory spokesman says: "This is the 1990s" - which surely means "Yes". He then hurriedly corrects himself: "Their personal arrangements are none of your business." None of our business certainly. Of some interest, however.

Perhaps Peter Mandelson, the Minister without Portfolio (but with Large Ambitions), is not the master of the universe he thinks he is. In his equestrian hurry to get on Labour's National Executive Committee, the last refuge of the would-be leader, Mandy has fallen at the first fence. He put round the word (ie instruction) that the chairmanship of the Fabian Society should go to Gareth Butler, a producer on Radio 4's The World This Weekend and son of the noted political academic David. Very trendy.

However, he overspun this one. Michael Jacobs, an academic at the London School of Economics and author of The Green Economy has come up on the rails to win. Perhaps Mandy should have recalled the origins of Fabianism, founded by the Webbs. They named the Society after the Roman General, Quintus Fabius Maximus, aka Fabius Cunctator, the Delayer. He bided his time before striking against Hannibal. Whoa there, Mandy!

Dr Julian Lewis, the self-appointed president of the League of Militant Abstentionists who, you will remember, turned up in person not to vote in the Conservative Party leadership, has discovered a new meaning in life. Over the champagne in Westminster College Gardens at a lobbying party, he confided that he has found a role model since entering Parliament in the Hagueite cause. Could it be Edward Heath, who he sits next to on the front row? Not likely.

Lewis, right-wing Central Office hard man, scourge of the satirical magazine Scallywag and compulsive writer of letters to the Daily Torygraph, is a secret admirer of Dennis Skinner, the left-wing troublemaker, sorry, guardian of the sacred socialist flame. He has now taken to imitating Skinner's mocking gestures and fancy footwork on the floor of the chamber. An unlikely pair. More Jekyll and Hyde than Shakespeare's Falstaff and Bardolph, you might think.

Which new Peer popped his head round the door of the Commons smoking room and complained that all the Labour MPs he heard speaking in the chamber were either Oxford or Cambridge, and the only place you can find the working class these days is in the House of Lords? Creevey's guess is Lord Evans, formerly John Evans, ex-engineering worker, Geordie and fierce hammer of the intellectual Left in his day.

It will require all the guile of the Foreign Office to reconcile these two opposing forces. No, not the Chinese and the dissidents of Hong Kong, but Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and his Minister of State, Derek Fatchett. Cook is billed to be the star speaker at a forthcoming Commons meeting of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, proportional representation and all that. Fatchett, by contrast (who was seen last week shaking hands with Peking's new boss in the former colony, and looking pretty embarrassed about it too) is a rabid supporter of the status quo.

Friends are telling him he must not turn up to heckle his boss. Strange business, though, isn't it, that Cook should be so against first-past- the-post, when he writes a racing column for a Scottish news- paper? What does he think? That the horses should take it in turns to win? Or that it should be called the Alice-in-Wonderland Stakes, and every horse gets a prize?

And while we're about it, who is going to be Robin Cook's eyes and ears in the Commons as his Parliamentary Private Secretary? Step forward Denis MacShane, MP for Rotherham and former press officer of the IMF. That's the International Metalworkers' Federation, not the International Monetary Fund. Denis, a former president of the National Union of Journalists who left his employment with the BBC over a little disagreement about ringing a phone-in programme while posing as Joe Public, is a Francophone ski- loony.

Dillons, the bookshop people, have decided to splash out more than pounds 30,000 to find out what Members of Parliament are reading these days. Every MP has been sent a questionnaire, asking what book they have most recently enjoyed. If they confess to having read Janet and John go to Westminster (or Janet and Janet in the politically correct version), they get pounds 250, plus a further pounds 250 to go to the school of their choice. Or they can give the whole lot to a school if they wish.

Reminds Creevey of the great joke about President Gerald Ford's library burning down. Both books were destroyed. And he hadn't even finished colouring them.