It's constituency 2212 speaking

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The Independent Online
EXTRAORDINARY. The Countryside Alliance - which is based, incidentally, in deepest south London, in the same building as the British Field Sports Society - is trying to inveigle its way into the good books of Labour MPs. The foxhunters have written to Peter Bradley, chairman of Labour's Rural Group of MPs, saying it now has a Labour section and that Peter Starling (yes, that is his name) is on board, along with a Dan Dempsey, "a long-time activist and Labour supporter from constituency 2212". Constituency 2212? Is that 2212 South or West? Evidently, the wax-jacket fuseliers are into military-style secrecy, indentifying their whereabouts only by numbers. What tosh. This is agent 6969. Over and out.

POLICEMEN in Downing Street bent anxiously over a cardboard box the other day. Was the security of the state at stake? Hardly. Inside was a Next catalogue. It was simply Cherie shopping by post.

IT'S amazing what MPs expect us to believe they do in their spare time. Especially New Labour. According to the new Blake's Guide to Parliament, they are keen hill-walkers to a person, though you'd scarcely guess it from their physiques. Peter Brand (Isle of Wight) is into restoring old houses. Fair enough. Lots of money in that. Valerie Davey, Bristol West (Mother's Union Party), is an avid marmalade-maker. Andrew Dismore (Hendon, Platonic Tendency) confesses to relaxing with Greek culture. Eileen Gordon (Romford, Nouveau Labour) lists "socialising". See you later? Jackie Ballard (Lib Dem, Taunton) likes Celtic rock music, and fellow MP Evan Harris (Oxford West) has a passion for psephology. That's not a hobby, brother, it's an affliction. Philip Hope (Corby) is a juggler. It's a relief to learn that David Faber (Tory, Westbury) admits to "rackets". He would have been at home in the Major administration.

MORE sex. The Industrial Society, which began life as a body of do-gooders who promoted harmony on the shopfloor and bosses who were nice to workers - some chance - is now into soft porn. On Creevey's desk lands an invitation to "the ultimate office party" to celebrate the publication of Sex at Work, at Carlton House Terrace, no less. There will be a new campaign about sex at work: how to avoid it, how to deal with it. But not how to get it. "There will be no groping," insists the lovely Kirsty, explaining why there are to be filing cabinets for partygoers to hide behind. Perhaps they are there to emphasise "Rule Number Six: Don't Have Sex at the Party". The slogan on the invitation is: "Remember: passion is wonderful but so is promotion!" A clear case of wanting to have your cake and eat it.

IT SEEMS that Viscount Wallpaper, aka Lord Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, is a much maligned man. Far from ripping off the taxpayer with his notorious pounds 650,000 decorators' bill to revamp his palatial accommodation at Westminster, he is actually saving taxpayers' money. The original estimate for the work, Creevey understands on good authority, was three-quarters of a million, but His Wallpaperness decided that was too much even for him and ordered it be to done for pounds 100,000 less. The architects and interior designers were slightly miffed about being asked to do a Pugin restoration on the cheap (so to speak), but agreed to do the best they could. Well, tra la, tra la. Let's not hear so much about the profligate Lord Chancellor in future.

NOW he's Minister without Dinner as well as Minister without Portfolio. Peter Mandelson went down to Cardiff the other day to address the city's business club, a coven of capitalists, and attend the dinner normally thrown in the guest speaker's honour. Local MPs were duly invited to the bash, which was to be sponsored by the Rhondda, Cynon and Taff council. This is not a borough characterised by admiration for Mandy. Sure enough, when councillors got wind of the plan to spend pounds 2,000 on a dinner for Blair's Rasputin, they cancelled it. They were puzzled. As they live in an area of high unemployment, why did they need to pay for a slap- up feed for a minister without a job to come and tell them all about not having a job? Quite so. Although he generally looks in need of a square meal, it is difficult to believe that Mandy went hungry. At least the indigent council-taxpayers of the valleys didn't have to pay to satisfy his appetite.

HOW much did William Hague's famous baseball cap go for at a recent charity auction before an audience of estate agents? pounds 900? pounds 90? No, pounds 9. Who said estate agents couldn't value property correctly? It is a relief that we will not see the Tory leader in Brixton-style headgear again. Creevey detects the sound influence of Ffion here. Perhaps William could start a long-overdue revival of the once-fashionable trilby, now only worn by men d'un certain age driving Humber Hawks.

Paul Routledge

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