Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Westminster Diary

Welcome to our round-up of gossip from the corridors of power.


OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS
A salary of 81,600. A pad in central London. The freedom to wear tights, whatever your gender. Who wouldn't go for a job like that? Well, the majority of the UK's population, it would seem.
Black Rod
Parliament is looking for a new Black Rod
So far just two people have applied for the post of Black Rod, the most famed ceremonial role in Parliament. The incumbent, Sir Michael Willcocks, is stepping down and the job has been advertised in The Guardian. A parliamentary source tells us: "The closing date is 26 November and two applications have been handed in so far. We've had a lot of requests for information packs and we expect to have quite a few more applications soon."

Black Rod is best known for hammering on the doors of the House of Commons after they are slammed in his face during the State Opening of Parliament. The job also involves being the Queen's representative to peers, overseeing budgets and security, and managing a staff of 30. But it appears the next Black Rod will have less to do than Sir Michael, with a new, 100,000 "director general of facilities" taking over some of the running of the Lords offices.

The advert says "all qualified individuals irrespective of gender, marital status, age, race, colour, disability, religious affiliation or sexual orientation" can apply. The need to look good in a garter goes without saying.

REMOTE CONTROL MPs

Forget Second Life - is the House of Commons becoming interactive? Are the denizens of Westminster now being tele-operated by relatives and constituents watching BBC Parliament and firing in instructions and sartorial advice to hapless MPs? "You can see MPs getting a little text saying your glasses are lopsided or 'from Mum, please straighten your tie'", Commons leader Harriet Harman told our Parliamentary correspondent Mark D'Arcy. More of that interview - mostly on more serious notes - on The Record Review on BBC Parliament.

TAKING THE MICHAEL

Michael Gove
Is this man the new Rory Bremner?
How do you think David Cameron prepares for prime minister's questions? Jabbing a life-sized Gordon Brown punchbag to Eye of the Tiger? A spot of transcendental meditation? No, it's much weirder than that. He gets Michael Gove to impersonate Gordon Brown. The shadow schools secretary plays the brooding PM opposite Mr Cameron's young pretender as the Tory leader limbers up for his Commons clash every Wednesday. But what is the secret of Mr Gove's uncanny mimicry? Could he have the makings of an alternative career if the politics thing doesn't work out? No, he was the only Scot they could find for the role, joked George Osborne at this week's Spectator Awards.


CHARLIE'S DARLINGS

Charles Kennedy has been the target of some cruel humour over the years, but never about his sex life - until now. In his very funny speech to the Spectator dinner, editor Matthew D'Ancona said Nick Clegg's famous admission that he has had up to 30 sexual partners was 28 more than most Lib Dem leaders. He instantly apologised to Mr Kennedy, who was sitting in the audience, adding: "They both enjoyed it, Charlie."

SOMETHING OF THE NIGHT

Malcolm Bruce has a dig at the Business Secretary

Lord Mandelson was also the target of a few well-aimed barbs at the Spectator do - but the best joke about the Prince of Darkness this week was made in the Commons, during a debate on the government's decision to award a Card Account contract to post offices. Lib Dem Malcolm Bruce was all for it. "This is clearly the right decision," he told MPs, "but one that I suspect Lord Mandelson has cast a long shadow on, assuming that Lord Mandelson casts a shadow..."

VISION THING

Margaret Beckett
Always one to keep up with the latest trends, Margaret Beckett has begun posting videos on YouTube. But we are not sure the Labour veteran has quite got the hang of vlogging. Watching her latest effort, we could not work out whether she was being held hostage - perhaps by a splinter group of the Caravan Club - or making a public information film of the type last seen in the 1940s. Her page views also seem disappointingly small. At the last count 16 people had watched it. Even Hazel Blears' video of her trip to India got more views than that and it is mostly of people standing in a queue. So in the spirit of promoting public discourse we urge you to watch Mrs Beckett's video about eco-towns (although you can probably skip Ms Blears' effort).

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