To the Cook, here's Health

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The Independent Online
ROBIN Cook may soon have more to fear than the wrath of the wronged wife who is divorcing him. Having upset the Israeli government, the Indian government and the Pakistani government, the word at Westminster is that he has also upset the British government. Creevey will not be surprised if he is moved in the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle from the sensitive post of Foreign Secretary to something requiring a little less tact and diplomacy, perhaps the Health Department. Frank Dobson, the incumbent, is tipped as Labour's candidate for Mayor of London, though the only thing he has in common with Dick Whittington is that they are both from York. The whisper is that Jack "Lock 'em Up" Straw could shift to Foreign, while rising star Alistair Darling, Treasury Chief Secretary, and a lawyer, could take over the Home Office. Oh, and the reshuffle has been moved from Easter to the summer.

MUCH wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Conservative camp over Labour's decision to ditch Blackpool as a party conference venue. The Tories took full opportunity to put a few into the Government's open goal, but privately they are appalled. An opposition front-bencher from the soft South accosted Creevey to say: "You do realise what this means. It means we can't leave Blackpool." The Tories had been secretly planning to abscond from kiss- me-quicksville too, most probably to Birmingham - which would enable them to claim to be "the party of middle England". But now that William Hague, a semi-professional northerner, has defiantly jammed his flat cap on his head, they are stuck with windswept Lancashire. More onions with your tripe, Mr Redwood?

POWER has gone to the head of John ("I'm terribly important, so you must answer my question") Humphrys, the aspiring Vyshinsky of Radio 4's Today programme. After recording his interview with Chancellor Gordon Brown last Sunday, he travelled back from York (scene of the Euro finance ministers' summit) to King's Cross on Grasping North East Railways. During the journey he spotted Iron Broon's Treasury team. The Chancellor's press shoutsman Charlie Whelan and his bovver boys were travelling first class, naturally, and the grand inquisitor felt he just must accompany them. Except that he only had a second class ticket. He demanded the right to pay a weekend first supplement (tripled in price under privatisation) in the first class carriage, but the conductor was even more insistent: if the gentleman wished to do that he would have to travel in the carriage set aside for cheapskate supplement-payers. What a lah-di-dah ensued. But Harrumphrys had to move.

FRANK "Actually" Field actually said actually at least 20 times on Newsnight after his rather leaden performance at the despatch box on reform of the welfare state. Actually, he said actually three times in a row at one point. In actual fact, he really means maybe.

IF they can't convince themselves, how can they convince the politicians? Public affairs consultants and other assorted influence-mongers crowded into Committee Room 14 in the Commons last week to debate the motion, "That lobbyists are essential to the democratic process." The meeting was organised by the Institute of Public Relations, and you might think it was a pushover for the Ayes. Wrong. The motion went down by 55 votes to 37. The chairman was so astonished that he delivered his winding-up speech as written beforehand, as if the lobbyists had carried the day. Don't bother registering this.

THE Countess of Ancram writes to ask Creevey to take part in a House of Lords v House of Commons Charity Speedo Swim at the Hurlingham Club in July. Whatever possessed Lady Jane to imagine that your diarist could manage a full length of the pool, much less participate in a Speedo Swim (that's a free advertisement, by the way) is difficult to comprehend. But let's wish the swimmers well. Their efforts are aimed at raising funds for the Women Caring Trust, which helps underprivileged children in Northern Ireland.

A second invitation - I count them all - is to a reception for the All- Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group, chaired by the irrepressible Ann Clwyd MP. Perhaps she could start an investigation closer to home, demanding human rights for the bleep-crazed minions who make up Labour's back benchers. (I only asked.)

A FOOTNOTE on language. BBC television news has been faced with the testing problem of what to call the person's room. Much agonising over the correct term. The decision had to go all the way up to head honcho Malcolm Balen, biographer of Kenneth Clarke and BAFTA-award winner for masterminding the coverage of Thatcher's resignation. Being a good public schoolboy, naturally he ruled in favour of "lavatory" over "toilet."