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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 December 2006, 11:23 GMT
Commons Confidential: December 2006
Nick Assinder
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Despatches from the House of Commons

They say romance is dead - perhaps they are right.

Shredded documents
Could a shredder be the perfect present?
Tory MEP Syed Kamall is suggesting the ideal present for "a loved one" this Christmas is, not a diamond ring or a gold watch, but a shredder.

"A shredder may not be the obvious way of showing affection for someone at Christmas," he says (get away).

"But it could save them a great deal of hassle and thousands of pounds. A shredder is always one of those pieces of equipment many people know they should have but never get around to buying."

Mr Kamall believes your loved one will thank you - once they have got over the initial "surprise" - because a shredder will help protect their identities from people going through their rubbish bins for utility bills, bank statements, personal memos and so on.

Has anyone told Cherie Blair?


It is probably a bit late in the day, but David Cameron has finally found his lost underground ticket.

Tory leader mislaid underground ticket to Morrisey concert
The Tory leader "did a Cherie Blair" the other day when travelling from Willseden Green to Wembley for a Morrissey concert.

Unfortunately, he misplaced his ticket and was challenged by a London Underground staff member who was apparently surprised he could not afford the 3 fare.

Now Mr Cameron, who was let off after buying another 3 ticket, has revealed he has found the lost item which had gone astray in one of his many pockets.

This, it has to be said, is a particularly serious offence - a Morrissey concert for heaven's sake.


If there was an award for the most groan inducing headline of the month, the following from the Local Government Information Unit would win hands down.

Tight Fit
Tight Fit made the song famous
The unit was responding to the news that the review of council tax being carried out by Sir Michael Lyons had been delayed.

The headline on its press release read: "Lyons sleeps tonight".

And if that doesn't conjure up images of the 1982 one hit wonders Tight Fit - two scantily loin-clothed girl dancers and a Tarzan impersonator - then you are too young.


What should be done to/with a prime minister who is a suspect in a police investigation?

10 Downing Street
Police may interview Blair under caution
That is a question the left-wing Campaign Group of Labour MPs have an answer to now they expect Tony Blair to be interviewed by the Met, possibly within days, over the loans-for-peerages affair.

Under the headline: "Will he be forced to resign?" (I wonder how many times this group has optimistically posed this question), the paper declares the following.

"If he is (questioned under caution) then this means that Blair is a suspect.

"Usually if a person in authority is questioned under caution , they are sent home on full pay until the enquiries are concluded.

"Local councillors are often suspended from the Labour Group. The same should happen to Tony Blair".

This may be a bit of wish fulfilment fantasising by the group, but, it has to be said, it is a question being asked more widely in Westminster.


Former Tory leader William Hague once revealed, to some incredulity, that he drank 14 pints of beer a day when he worked as a brewery driver's mate in his teens.

Tony Blair drinking a pint
Prime minister may be remembered in Durham pubs
Now, the prime minister appears to have revealed he spent a lot of time in pubs when growing up in his home town of Durham.

Tony Blair was being interviewed by writer Bill Bryson for a Downing Street podcast.

Much of the interview was about science and education, but Mr Bryson turned to Mr Blair's home town, declaring Durham - where he is chancellor of the university - was a "magically beautiful historic town".

"You cannot walk ten feet in Durham without somebody pointing out to you a Blair site, that this is where you were educated. ...," he said,.

The prime minister quickly jumped in to say "probably the pubs".

"But your presence is still very powerfully felt there," replied Mr Bryson.

Where, in the pubs?

I can see the newspaper features now: "Blair - the pub years."


We all know what a stickler for facts and figures Chancellor Gordon Brown is.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown has faced his fair share of opponents
We also all know how, when he makes his annual pre-budget report on Wednesday, he is likely to crow over the number of shadow chancellors he has seen off during his time in No 11 Downing Street.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to learn that the Treasury press office appears to have no idea of the answer.

One political correspondent was dismayed to be told it was not the sort of information the press office held because it was available on the website.

Except, of course, it isn't. And, as it is a civil service-run website it probably shouldn't be as it might be deemed political. In any case, it is impossible to find.

But I wouldn't mind betting the Chancellor knows exactly and may well want to consider a little memo to his press office in preparation for the big day..

But, as a service, the number (including the current incumbent George Osborne) is seven.

They were Kenneth Clarke, Peter Lilley, Francis Maude, Michael Portillo, Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin.

If Mr Brown gets his way, it will stay at seven. He hopes to have bigger fish to fry.

Commons Confidential: October 2006
01 Nov 06 |  Politics
Commons Confidential: July 2006
10 Oct 06 |  Politics
Commons Confidential: June 2006
04 Jul 06 |  Politics
Commons Confidential: May 2006
05 Jun 06 |  Politics

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