Tony's hair: a consensus is emerging

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The Independent Online
To Woolley Hall, in the wilds of Yorkshire, last weekend for the birthday bash of Ron Rose, the television playwright and script scribbler for The Bill. Wine copious, entertainment excellent. Creevey particularly liked the socialist conjuror and ventriloquist, who had a larger-than- life animated portrait of Karl Marx that sang "My Little Teapot".

Extraordinary business. The star turn was also pretty savage about New Labour, which went down well. And who was that in the corner, his sides heaving more than anyone's? Why, none other than Tony Booth, actor father of the saintly Cherie Blair. Is this disrespectful behaviour not an offence under New Labour's Think-As-You-Are-Told Charter?

While we are on the Blairs, our highly placed informant (all right, a lady who uses the same crimper in north London) tells us that everybody has got it wrong about Blair's hair. The problem isn't that it's thinning at the front, but that it's too long at the back.

Julian wants the Labour leader to have his hair cut shorter. More fashionable, you see. Cherie agrees with Julian. Tony, who clearly wants to hang on to something from his flares-and-guitar past, insists on wearing it longish, over the collar. Oooh, isn't he a johnny reb?

More to the point, where did Blair acquire the shiner he was sporting in top-level party meetings last week? It was hidden under cosmetics in the Commons on Budget Day. Surely, Shadow Cabinet meetings have not descended to the level of fisticuffs.

n COMEDIAN Steve Punt compered a charity pub quiz in the Red Lion, Whitehall, a couple of days ago. One team was an unlikely coalition of Tory and Labour MPs. To the question "What have Henry Cooper, Elvis Presley and Carol Thatcher got in common?" they chortled "The same mother!". Fair enough. In fact, they are all twins. But when asked "What part of the body can enlarge itself eight times over?" the MPs wrote down - serious, now - "the stomach". Further comment would be superfluous. Ditto on their definition of the last stage of drunkenness: "melancholia". No wonder there are so many unhappy-looking MPs.

THE revolution has been postponed indefinitely. Not just "if wet, under pier", but for good. That can be the only interpretation of the intelligence reaching Creevey that Paul Foot, leader of the Socialist Workers' Party has joined a golf club. And not just any old golf club, but Hampstead golf club, where the toffs play. So while his myrmidons are standing outside Safeways in the Walworth Road next Saturday selling the Socialist Worker and proclaiming the imminence of the proletarian insurrection, presumably the Great Leader will be out golfing with his bourgeois chums. "Well, 17 years of Tory rule haven't all been wasted," sniggered Employment minister Philip Oppenheim, on hearing the news. Except that he asked Creevey to say "he commented wryly". Tells you something, that.

n AND now for the Malvolio Medal for the Most Self-Important MP. It should not be assumed that self-importance is the prerogative of the Conservative Party. There are pompous Liberal Democrats. There is even talk of a Scottish Nationalist with ideas above her station. And there are vain Labour MPs. Honestly.

Here, one runs up against the Sir Patrick Cormack Problem again. That is, so many nominate one candidate that others get lost in the general clamour. In Labour's case, Greville Janner is the name that springs instantly to everyone's lips.

He is the kind of man who reminds you of those tiny, brightly coloured birds that flit about the tree-tops of the Amazonian jungle. Can you not just hear David Attenborough whispering into the microphone: "And over there is a Great Crested Janner. Wonderful plumage. Notice how much noise it makes for such a little bird." Janner was the chairman of the Commons Employment Committee, until they abolished it and took away his soapbox. He is a QC and an amateur magician, but not even this combination of black arts could restore his fortunes. He is standing down at the next election.

However, he lacks the heavy-duty bluster of a real Malvolio. Consider, instead, the merits, of Graham Allen, the Self-Important Member for Nottingham North. He has been at various times a front-bench spokesman on the constitution, transport, information technology and health and safety. But whatever he does, his press notices are usually about Graham Allen. He even gives the home number of a hapless lady press officer as his "out of hours" spokesperson. So, this week's crossed garters go to Brother Allen.

YOU have to hand it to Ken Clarke. You have to hand it to him, because he will take it anyway. But it wasn't really his week, the one just gone. It started badly, and fell away. At a Budget briefing the Chancellor was asked when he last travelled by the London Underground. "In July," he shot back. "To Wembley, for the London-Poland match." The what? "The England- Poland match." Come again? It was the England-Holland match, and it was in June. So much for Treasury statistics. Next day, on the Jimmy Young Show, he confused Ross Perot with Jimmy Goldsmith. Wrong country, advised the old rocker.

n HE'S done it this time. Jerry Hayes, the engaging, self-publicising MP for Chatshow East (and all other points of the compass for that matter) has foolishly agreed to take part in a Christmas Day performance by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company of Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe on Classic FM. He likes to think of himself as an accomplished baritone, though in Creevey's experience he's more of a bar-tone. He did once sing Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado.

Well, this time he is Strephon. He didn't ask what the character was. "I thought it was a speaking part," he whinges. It isn't. He will sing the part of a half-fairy, half-mortal who falls in love with a shepherdess. "Basically, it's just a lot of mushy love scenes," says the column's G & S expert.

But Iolanthe is also about politics, and it has some wonderful lines like "My top half I am a Tory of the most determined description/But my legs are a couple of confounded radicals." Which is a reasonable description of Bubbles Hayes, who lost count of the times he voted against the Thatcher government, despite being the thespian Tory member for Harlow, and never being off the wireless.