Make way for Mayor Patten

Thomas Creevey: His Diary
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The Independent Online
LONDON may yet get Chris Patten as Governor ... sorry, Mayor. Steven Norris, the former Tory MP, Chief Swordsman of the Commons, and now flamboyant chief of the dull Road Haulage Association, is willing to enter a pact with the former Taipan of Hong Kong to secure a Conservative boss of the capital. Norris was fancied as a candidate himself, or fancied himself, at any rate, but he regards Patten as a better bet. Creevey hears that the former member for Epping Forest wishes he hadn't stood down at the last election, because he could have kept his seat. Evidently the landslide wasn't as bad as he expected. That redefines pessimism.

HOME Secretary Jack Straw has behaved with perfect media precision during his recent travails with the Kennington gendarmerie. He has even quoted Woody Allen to good effect, telling young offenders : "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I told him I was planning a quiet Christmas." This is a big improvement on his rather stilted style in Opposition. He used the word "inchoate" twice in a briefing to open-mouthed tabloid journalists. Asked what it meant, he baffled his tormentors even more with the reply: "The question is otiose" And they say this is a government of great communicators.

SPEAKING of which, Peter Mandelson's refrain on his publicity-seeking trip to Disneyworld, Florida, was, as we know, "Get thee behind me, Mickey Mouse!". The photographers were keen to snap the Minister without Portfolio (but with Great Ambitions) next to Disney's greatest creation, but he ran away every time Mickey Mouse appeared in the frame. Desperate paparazzi snatched a mouse-balloon from a snivelling child and tried to hold it behind him, but the Hartlepool Vampire was ahead of them. "You just want to write a caption 'the Mickey Mouse politician', don't you?" he sneered. "What, us?" they cried in unison. Yes, them.

In private, the Dome Minister was supercilious about the motives of the liberal broadsheets, particularly the Guardian, which he described as "the anarchists' paper". "Do you know, they let them write what they like?" Mandelson protested. His bleating would be more credible if he did not exploit his pseudo-revolutionary friends at the Guardian to peddle his spin-doctored stories. Creevey knows whereof he speaks.

LABOUR'S seasonal pantomime - the last at Walworth Road - had a Mandelson character in it who was attended by Benny Dead-Losser (an unsubtle reference to his sidekick Ben Wegg-Prosser) who followed him round whispering to him the name of the person he was meeting, and brushing the dandruff off his shoulders. The plot was all about Mandy going to the ball, leading inevitably to the wisecrack : "He's held some of the finest balls in the country in his time." That brought the house down.

SIR EDWARD Heath has finally finished his memoirs. A full 24 years since leaving Downing Street, the Father of the House of Commons is almost ready to deliver a massive single volume of recollections that will make Margaret Thatcher's self-justifying tome read like a speech to the Conservative Women's section of Grantham constituency association. Creevey hears that the early years are good, and the chapter covering his time as Chief Whip during the Suez crisis will be revelatory. He is also very frank about the miners' strike that ended his premiership in 1974. But what we are on the edge of our seats about, of course, is his treatment of That Bloody Woman.

The old rogue has been dictating his memoirs in the front room of his discreetly-lavish home in the cathedral close in Salisbury. Michael McManus, the head of his private office, is doing the punctuation, "but the words are all coming from him, honestly". That too makes a change from Thatcher. Her Ladyship's ghost-writing team could have filled the Albert Hall.

Hodder Headline aim to bring the book out in the autumn, just in time to cause maximum embarrassment at the Tory party conference. Naturally, since he has only been at the project a quarter of a century, Sir Edward hasn't yet got a title, and is open to offers.

CHARLES Kennedy, the garrulous outgoing president of the Liberal Democrats, has confessed that he often gives live radio interviews from the comfort of his bed in the mornings. This is perfectly understandable if your constituency is Ross, Cromarty and Skye, where it is dark most of the year and very cold to boot. One can just imagine bonny Charlie tucked up under the eiderdown, his striped jim-jams buttoned up to the neck, looking out from his bothy window at the wild Atlantic. This is rather more affecting than the thought of Tim Allan, the school-age number two to Alastair Campbell in the Downing Street press office, who gives out the official line from his bathtub.

Paul Routledge