This one must have been serious. The Leader's Office refuses to say who was there, though office-hungry Peter Mandelson joined the upmarket scoff. As did his uniquely understanding publisher, Matthew Evans, managing director of Faber and Faber, who brought out Mandy's excruciatingly dull book on the Blair revolution with its cast of made-up people. It does not appear to have broken sales records.
n MOST Ostentatious Valentine must be the early day motion put down by Nicholas Winterton, silver-haired uxorious MP for Macclesfield, congratulating his wife Ann, the MP for Congleton, on winning Cheshire Life's Woman of the Year Award. What? Old Nick must be in sore need of some brownie points.
A CHIP off the old block. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Old Etonian Conservative candidate in the Labour stronghold of Central Fife, aged 27, is busy pretending that he shares an understanding with the kingdom's numerous redundant coalminers.
Come again? He says he appreciates what it's like to live in a former mining community in a rural setting, because he hails from north Somerset, where there were collieries until the Seventies.
What he does not mention is that his family were coal owners not coal miners, hence the fascination with the industry shown by his father, Lord William. Young Jacob, who claims to have joined the Tories at the age of 13 (so late?), is a City investment manager. He admits to Creevey that his family's involvement with coal "was not in a pit face way".
The question arises: does Jake the Ache take after his father in the delicate matter of night attire? His Lordship is said to be the only peer who sleeps in double-breasted pyjamas.
n HORSES for courses, with a fresh twist. Voters in Wirral South are being sociologically targeted by the Blairistas. In a new excursion into postal-code politics, Labour is fielding socially correct politicians down the line from Westminster to bolster its bid to steal the seat from the Tories. Dennis Skinner, fresh from his unarmed Question Time combat with John Major, is put on the phone to Labour-supporting punters in the council estates, while the golf-club classes get John Gilbert, the public school-educated banker.
Who would they have got to canvass the original Thomas Creevey's father, a slave trader from nearby Liverpool? The Chief Whip, perhaps.
SPOTTED in the House of Lords car park last week on the day the backwoodsmen were summoned (ineffectively) to deliver a majority for Michael Howard's Lock Up The Thieving Drug-Taking Bastards Bill: a Rolls-Royce with the number plate MI LORD. Whose might that be? Tacky enough for Jeffrey Archer.
n ON the Books Tour last week: Gerald Kaufman, film buff MP and sometime confidante of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, confessed at the relaunch of his oeuvre, How to be a Minister, that he almost did not vote Labour in 1983, such was his distaste for his party's hard-left manifesto (which he dubbed the longest suicide note in history). He squared his conscience "on the grounds of a personal vote for myself", he said. "There were no other grounds." Who said loyalty was the Tories' secret weapon?
GOODBYE corner resumes normal service. So bid adieu to Gyles Brandreth, former TV-am presenter, doyen of the pullover industry and fan of Bruce Gyngell, the Australian television censor.
Brandreth ranks high on the list of Labour election hopes, and with good reason. His Labour opponent, Christine Russell, is as sensible as he is daft. And even after boundary redrawing, the notional Tory majority in his Chester constituency is just over 3,000, vulnerable to a swing of less than 3 per cent. Ms Russell will deliver us from those frightful woollies. "She hates jumpers," confides an aide. "She's more into silk blouses."
In a cunning move to button his notoriously slack lip, the Government made Brandreth the Blurter a Whip in 1995, which involved a Trappist vow of silence. But Gyles's constituents are unlikely to forget his fatuous obiter dicta, such as "happiness is a habit", his odd passion for standing on his head, his famous on-screen kiss with Cheryl Baker of Buck's Fizz that lasted 3 mins 33 secs, and his ridiculous, brightly coloured jumpers.
Tory grandee Iain Macleod once told Brandreth he was a young man who thought he knew it all. He went on to become a middle-aged know-it-all, author of Great Sexual Disasters and the politician who faced down sleuths from the Sunday tabloids with echoes of Harry Truman: "I am staying in the kitchen." The tough-guy effect was rather spoiled by a lame plea for the temperature to be turned down.
Ms Russell, a local JP and councillor who works for the mental health charity Mind, should have little difficulty seeing him off. Gyles can spend more time with his teddy bears. After all, he has 600 of them.
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