The Russians smell a porky

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LORD Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, imagines that he can be indiscreet about Princess Diana because he is in Moscow. But Creevey's spies are everywhere - as we know. Attending a seminar organised last week by Russia's School of Political Studies, the former Tory propaganda minister disclosed that the Princess of Wales did not behave like any other member of the Royal Family. She called him up and asked to have dinner. She then proceeded to raise all manner of issues, including the media treatment of her life, and asked for his help.

Wakeham described his chagrin when he saw a wildly distorted account of this "secret summit" appear on the front page of a newspaper, in which he found his advice to her twisted out of recognition. Yet Princess Diana had said she did not want publicity. He was plainly very cross, as a British journalist discreetly sitting in the audience could easily gather. To make sure his hosts got the message, Wakeham reminded them that Princess Diana had co-operated in the writing of Andrew Morton's book.

Wakeham also claimed that, when in government, the Tories had not interfered with the freedom of the media. Fortunately, the Russians are good at spotting porkies. They didn't exactly shout "Zircon B! Spycatcher!" but they got the message.

CAN it really be the end of Dennis Skinner, Scourge of the National Executive? Friends say the veteran left-winger is going round complaining that he has no hope of getting re-elected to Labour's "ruling" NEC in the MPs' section this autumn, because those nasty prefects, the government whips, have told backbenchers they must vote for the gaggle of Blairite trusties on the Downing Street ticket. Skinner, who is most often in a minority of two or three with Diane Abbott and Ken Livingstone on the NEC, cannot expect much comfort from the left-wing Campaign Group of MPs, either. The poor dears held a meeting to decide on a slate for the NEC elections, and came to no conclusions at all. Revolution postponed, once more. They're meeting again on Wednesday to see if they can decide whose head should be stuck above the parapet.

Creevey's nominations : John Cryer, tousle-haired son of the late Bob, who has made a brilliant start to his parliamentary career; Mick Clapham, the mining MP who had the guts to oppose the cuts in one-parent benefits at the cost of his minor post in government, and Austin Mitchell, who would put the whole NEC in perspective: as a good laugh.

BREAK out the corduroys. It's bonding time again. To virtually universal groans, William Hague has told his MPs to prepare for a second session of togetherness for the good of the Conservative Party. At the last gathering of paint-ball politics, the Tories turned up in an exciting array of cord trousers and sweaters, many of them rib-knit, looking more like a convention of hobby farmers than a political party. Perhaps Hague should put the party's sartorial style on the agenda.

BELATEDLY, perhaps, but Creevey would like to finish by starting a campaign. In Victoria Tower Gardens, facing the River Thames and hard by the Lords, a semi-circular ensemble celebrates the life and work of the suffragettes. The centrepiece is a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, while to the right is a plaque commemorating her daughter, Dame Christabel Pankhurst. The Women's Social and Political Union badge of women prisoners adorns the left side. No mention of the real hero of the family, Sylvia Pankhurst, Christabel's sister, who was the most militant of them all. She preferred mixing with working-class women in the East End of London to high society, and refused to give up the struggle for women's rights during the First World War, when her mother and sister called a truce.

Sylvia should not be written out of history in this shoddy way. Her memory ought to be perpetuated on the memorial, in place of the pretty insipid WSPU badge. Wake up, sisters! Wake up, Fawcett Society!

THIS is my last outing as Thomas Creevey, the column inspired by former editor Rosie Boycott. The title, you may be interested to learn, was the brainchild of our columnist, Alan Watkins, who knows all there is to know about these things. He still hasn't received the bottle of champagne promised for the best name for the column. And he still hasn't stopped talking about it. The unsung heroes of the enterprise have been sub-editors Lizzie Heathcote and Sarah Wright, who thinks nothing of pulling Creevey off the Yorkshire express train to query the spelling of a politician's name.

To those who have been kind, my thanks. To those who think they have got away without being noticed, I say look in the mirror.

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