Play tag with Big Brother

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New Labour, new chain gang. Labour MPs are being asked to wear electronic pagers attached to their belt so that the Downing Street thought police can give them instructions wherever they are.

The bleepers are emblazoned with a red rose, and come equipped with a natty gold chain - hence the singing of "Chain Gang" (sotto voce, nowhere near the ghastly whips) last week. Some recidivists are holding out against this political electronic tagging, not least because they are charged pounds 8 a month for the dubious privilege of staying in touch with Big Brother. Sample message last week: "The Sunday Times is conducting a survey of MPs' views on the monarchy. Don't take part."

There had to be a reason for Gordon Brown's refusal to wear evening dress to the CBI dinner last week other than his stated desire for informality. And Creevey can reveal it. It wasn't the bosses that the Chancellor was afraid of upsetting. It was the workers. Or more precisely, the union barons.

Brown made his speech to the assembled captains of industry, then left to go and vote on the Queen's Speech. He subsequently popped in to the Kremlin (as the Strangers' Bar was known before Blair's Babes took over) for a quick snorter before going on to a discreet trade union victory bash at the Barbican. The invitation stipulated suits (lounge or boiler) - so Brown would have been completely out of place in evening dress. As it was, he mingled unobtrusively with the brothers and sisters. He didn't bother going back for pudding with the capitalists.

But who did turn up at the CBI dinner in fancy dress? Why, none other than Dick Caborn MP (Sheffield, Nar' Then), sometime Leftie and now Minister of State in John Prescott's leviathan Environment and Everything Else Department. Creepy Caborn!

By the way, this diary has it on good authority that the Chancellor has not always been such a down-dresser. A bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape to the first reader who can prove - preferably on a photograph - that Gordon has in the past pretended to be a penguin.

Matthew Arnold must be revolving in his grave. There are now only two Old Rugbeians in the House of Commons, where there used to be six. Ian Lang, Andrew Mitchell, Jeremy Hanley and Charles Hendry have all been expelled by the voters, leaving only one Tory, Tom King, the west country farmer, and one Labour, Alan Howarth, the turncoat back in the job of education minister he was first given by Margaret Thatcher. Rugby School's last prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, would be less than impressed.

OH dear, how confusing. Commons staff cannot tell Phil Woolas, the society photographer and new Labour member for Oldham East and Saddleworth, from Phil Willis, the Lib-Dem MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough who gratified the nation by beating Norman Lamont. So Woolas, the God-fearing Young Farmer, was counted as Willis, the Headmaster, in a crucial division. And vice versa. One for Tracey Woolas, a gorgeous but no-nonsense Labour Party official, to sort out, when husband Phil has finished apologising for snapping Brian Mawhinney on the Terrace - a pic that reappeared in the Mirror.

Adopting a high moral tone in government is one thing, but a ban on swearing in Annie's Bar is quite another. Tony McWalter, a former philosophy lecturer who ousted the Tories in Hemel Hempstead, upbraids Creevey for letting slip a small curse in the only place in Westminster where you don't have to watch what you're saying. Hang on a minute. Didn't his party leader memorably describe the Scottish press as "unreconstructed wankers?" Loosen up, Tony. What did Descartes say? I drink therefore I am.

Time to take out the dice for parliamentary snakes and ladders. This week, consider the fortunes of Roger Stott, the clubbable, pipe-smoking rugby loony who stood for the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Labour Party against Blair's favourite son, Clive Soley (Hammersmith, Sensible Jumpers Tendency). He polled fewer than a hundred votes, and had to be consoled with a large Jameson's.

Worse was in store. Stott, the long-serving MP for Wigan and former PPS to Callaghan, had signed on the dotted line with the Whips to get a sumptuous new Westminster office in Speakers' House. But when he went up to install his clock and picture, he found a board with the name of ex-Northern Ireland minister Michael Ancram (Devizes, Noblesse Oblige Party) already on the door.

As if this were not enough, he missed a vote on the Queen's Speech while telephoning his wife for tender loving commiseration - and the Whips promptly threatened him with scorpions. In Stotty's absence, it seems, Labour's majority had slumped to only 300. In the circumstances, this act of unparalleled political treachery was forgiven. Even so, that was some snake he slithered down.

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