Out of Tatton, true love

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The Independent Online
Melissa - no, no, not Messenger you crudistas - Melissa Bell, daughter of Martin, the anti-sleaze victor over Neil Hamilton at the general election, is to marry. Naturally, her intended is a former Army officer. Major Peter Bracken, 37, and Melissa, 24, who until recently worked for Reuter's news agency in Brussels, are to wed next summer. The vicar will be Tristan Flak-Jacket, of St Mortar's, Tatton-in-the-Trenches, and dress will be formal white suits, tailored in Jermynski Street, Sarajevo.

Actually, that last bit was made up. But it is true that Peter Bracken is a "tall and debonair" fellow, who helped out with Bell's campaign in Cheshire in April. He has landed the woman voted "blonde of the year" by one of those obscure men's magazines that you hear about but never buy. In the week that we expect the full and frank report on the odious Mr Hamilton from Sir Gordon Downey, the parliamentary "sleazebuster", this is good news. Congratulations all round.

MICHAEL Ancram, the Tories' new Constitutional Supremo, is obviously a man after Creevey's heart. At 6.40am the other day, the telephone jangled by his ear. It was Alan Duncan, the diminutive but hyperactive media adviser to William Hague (known to his social worker as Child W). Was Ancram listening to the Today programme, barked Duncan. No, he most certainly was not. He was fast asleep, dreaming of Roxburghshire, or whichever Caledonian county he owns most of. Now go away, there's a good little chap, murmured the heir to Viscount Midlothian. At this rate, the Conservative "No" campaign in the Scottish devolution referendum is going to be a most agreeable affair, even if Bernard Jenkin (Colchester North, Swivel-Eyed Right-wing Tendency) is his sidekick.

Duncan himself is to be a glorified Parliamentary Political Secretary to Hague, a sort of Shadow Minister without Portfolio modelled on Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair's eminence grise. Well, he's got the limitless self- esteem. Now all he needs to do is stop rushing about with bits of paper, and intrigue at arm's length like the Peter Cushing of Whitehall. If they make a film of it, Princess Diana would be well advised not to take her children.

IN days of old, when mining MPs were thick as the leaves that strew'd the brooks of Vallombrosa (indeed, some were thicker), the Strangers Bar at Westminster was known as the Kremlin. But the new intake of Labour members has brought in so many social workers, it is becoming known as the Case Conference Suite. Multi-disciplinary, of course.

IF you are still in shock at seeing a Labour MP for Scarborough and Whitby and similar Tory strongholds, take heart. You are not alone. Derek Wyatt, the new member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Kent - 150th on Labour's election hit-list - has written to the other MPs who are wandering round Westminster still looking gobsmacked by their good fortune, asking if they would like to join a new parliamentary group. Name? The Unlikely Lads/Lasses 97.

And before the whips bear down on them like a ton of bricks for starting a party within a party, let it be known that Brother Wyatt has all but ruled out discussing politics. "We felt that though politics would no doubt be a factor in meetings, it would be met with an equal measure of humour and fun," he writes. Well, that's all right then. Except, as Glenda Jackson has ruled, Labour people are not here to enjoy themselves.

IF anybody believes that New Labour doesn't like political lobbyists, think again. Westminster Strategy's summer bash at Dean's Yard was heaving with MPs and ministers last week. And what a thirsty lot they are. The champagne ran out much earlier than usual. Perhaps they should have gone to the more discreet party thrown at Lancaster House by Clare Short, the International Development Minister, where the white wine was flowing. Practically a White Rhine. Ms Give'em The Money was heavily into her mediatory role, bringing together the two Conservative Parties. But why on earth she wants to entertain neanderthal Gerald Howarth (Aldershot, Quit Europe Party) and Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding, Federate Now! Party) is beyond imagination.

AND speaking of entertainment, Joe McCrea, special adviser to Frank "The Appetite" Dobson, can look forward to a good dinner at the expense of the privatised water industry fat cats. McCrea it was who masterminded Frank's highly successful campaign against leaking water pipes. However, he's now followed his master to the Department of Health. The Water Services Association is so relieved to see him go they've invited him out for a nosh.