Sir Mark Orders Stationery, a Kiss for Lord Levy, and a Hug for Gordon Brown. (the Insider)

Article excerpt

When Mark Thatcher flew back after the death of his father, Denis, he showed a less-than-reverential eagerness for his hereditary title. Practically his first act was to order "Sir Mark" stationery from Smythson's of Bond Street. But why is he spending so much time in Zimbabwe? And what's all this stuff about diesel engine contracts? I can't believe Sir Mark is in bed -- commercially speaking -- with Mugabe.

Sir Denis died before the final stages of shooting for a Channel 4 biopic. The producer, Linda McDougall, had arranged a last "Dear Bill" supper with Bill Deedes at the Savoy Grill. Not that McDougall, biographer of Cherie Blair, is likely to offer a hagiography. Thatcher was a great deal less pleasant in private than his "haw-haw" public persona.

Air-kissing is a concept foreign to this column. But I can quite believe my contact who says that Lady (Sally) Morgan, Downing Street fixer, and Lord Levy, No 10's money-grinder, were caught in this faux-amorous exchange in the street.

The Tories are anxious about Iraq. Not about the state of that country, but about the possible loss of up to ten MPs in the army reserves. Desmond Swayne, a major in the Territorial Army when not MP for New Forest West, is already there, and may not be home before Christmas. In the parliamentary platoon are Patrick Mercer (2nd Lieutenant, Sherwood Foresters); the Sandhurst-educated Hugo Swire; Mark Francois, a whip, and Julian Brazier, both TA; and Andrew Robathan, a former Guards officer. We may assume that Captain lain Duncan Smith (Scots Guards) will not be drafted. Labour needs him on the home front.

Lobby hacks hate the daily trek from Westminster to the Carlton House Terrace office of the Foreign Press Association, where the daily Downing Street briefings are now held. …