Life at No 10 with grumpy Ali

Thomas Creevey: His Diary

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NOW hear this. Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's press secretary, is privately keeping a diary with a view to writing an apologia pro vita sua in Downing Street. After all, he is a writer. Having started his authorial career as a pornographer, he interrupted it to become the political editor of Today, the rather boring tabloid shut down by Tony Blair's favourite newspaper proprietor, Rupert Murdoch.

Ali's diary will be riveting. No question about it. But grumpy.

SILENCE now for the Hattie and Frank Show. Harriet Harman, the Social Services Secretary, who pickpockets single mothers, and her deputy Frank "Think the Unthinkable" Field were each invited to appear before the powerful Commons Select Committee. Since they do not sing from the same hymn-sheet about their chosen subject, they decided that the only way to stop carrying on their argument in public was to turn up in tandem, holding hands and keeping an ear open for each other. For connoisseurs, it should prove to be excellent theatre. Perhaps Tony Blair and Gordon Brown ought to look in to see if it can be done.

SPEAKING of the Prime Minister, it is now apparent why he switched to a Roman hairstyle. He combs it forward because it is disappearing at the back. Parliamentary correspondents are losing the thread of Prime Minister's Questions as they study Blair's spreading bald patch from the press gallery. At least he has some hair. William Hague will not be troubling the new Commons unisex crimper. At eight quid a go, nor will Creevey, who will take his custom to Carole, the only female barber (not, repeat not, hairdresser) in North Yorkshire.

THE Bow Group, once the intellectual power-house of the Conservative Party, is busily reinventing itself. Having recovered from the near-terminal hangover of 1 May, a busy programme of events over the next few months has been arranged. Alan Clark will plug his column in the Evening Standard; Eddie George, the Governor of the Bank of England, will unburden himself about his "new roles and concerns under Labour". And over a black-tie dinner at Quaglino's, Cecil Parkinson will discuss "the rejuvenation of the Conservative cause" - in which he may reveal the secret of the elixir he's taking to keep him running a party led by a chap who is young enough to be his grandson. But it will set Bow Groupers back pounds 52.50 a head. Without wanting to sound mean, Creevey wouldn't pay that to listen to Geoffrey Boycott's Confessions of a Wife Beater. But the message is that the Tories are beginning to think for themselves again. They even promise a speech by Michael Howard for their annual diplomatic reception at Sotheby's in mid-May. That costs a mere pounds 20. But aren't the odds against him still being Shadow Foreign Secretary by that date rather longer than the winter nights in Lapland?

By the way, the Bow Group lays down that its members "shall have no collective policy". Just like the last government.

POOR Robin Cook, hereinafter known as Cock Robin. His treatment at the hands of the tabloid press is truly appalling. The Sun called our Foreign Secretary "Nookie Cookie". The Daily Star was worse. They billed him as "Throbbin' Robin". Small wonder that a Labour MP observes that Cook is "destined to die the death of a thousand cuttings".

At least he has had the comfort of his partner Gaynor Regan on his Far- Eastern trip, after Downing Street's clemency on the matter. I hope he enjoyed it, for every amour-tour by a minister will henceforth be subject to the most withering political scrutiny. The Tories have decided that attacking "gravy-train Labour" is the best way to restore their flagging fortunes in the polls. Worse, they have put David Wilshire MP, who is so far to the right that he is barely visible on a clear day, on the case. Nothing shames him. He has even asked the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, who is gay, if he has taken his partner on any trips abroad at the taxpayers' expense.

No, he has not.

PADDY Ashdown, who goes through office staff faster than a speeding bullet, has got himself a new spin doctor. Miranda Green, an Oxbridge twenty-something has been hired to replace Sean O'Grady, who quit after only a few months over his master's masterful ways. "She's as tough as old boots," says a colleague fondly. "Which is just as well. Paddy is very demanding." That's one way of putting it. Autocratic might be another. His latest wheeze was to lock all his MPs in a bunker and force them to read and then hand back numbered copies of his Thoughts for The Future.

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