Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Insider: Blunkett's Memento of Kimberly, Howard's Flying Sycophants and Hoon's Hunt for a Comb

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Insider: Blunkett's Memento of Kimberly, Howard's Flying Sycophants and Hoon's Hunt for a Comb

Article excerpt

To China, with Comrade Brown. The "red papers" that he wrote in his younger days had significantly less impact than Mao Zedong's Little Red Book--except in Scotland, where they opened up a schism with Robin Cook over their authorship that reverberates to this day.

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The go-faster Chancellor took two overnight flights so he could be in Beijing on Monday, Shanghai on Tuesday and both Shenzhen and Hong Kong on Wednesday. Hair waving and shirt untucked, his only care ahead of a 13-hour flight home was that he would miss the Barcelona-Chelsea and Man United-Milan football matches while in the air. He rang a trusted secretary to videotape a game so he could watch it at 6am in Downing Street.

During the flying visit, Brown told a rather good joke about a veteran communist who drones on for three hours at a meeting as the audience drifts away, until a lone man is left sitting in the hall. The communist suddenly stops and asks: "Even I'm bored. Why are you still here?" The man replies: "I'm the next speaker."

Good to see Alastair Campbell heeding the PM's advice to lower his profile following the "fuck off, you twats" tirade at the BBC. Apart, that is, from the Burnley nut's TV appearance as a football pundit alongside that Blackburn fan, Jack Straw, during an FA Cup clash between the teams. And his 10 March speech at a Westminster Press Gallery lunch. At least in a recent celebrity edition of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? Campbell had the good sense, when asking to call a friend, not to ring his mate John Scarlett.

Talk of dirty tricks in County Durham where, as I revealed last week, the Downing Street aide Liz Lloyd is trying to secure the safe seat of Bishop Auckland. When a potential rival, Mo O'Toole (the former Mrs Alan Milburn), asked her union Amicus for support she was told that No 10 was pulling out all the stops for Lloyd. …

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