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Friday, 16 June, 2000, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Tears over Brown?
Nick Assinder graphic
By BBC News Online's political correspondent Nick Assinder

Ever since spin doctor Charlie Whelan left Gordon Brown's employ, stories about the impending marriage between the chancellor and his girlfriend Sarah Macaulay have pretty much dried up.

There have been no more carefully-staged newspaper pictures of them enjoying romantic dinners together, and no speculation over the wedding date.

Gordon Brown and Sarah Macaulay
No tears here... Gordon Brown and Sarah Macaulay
There were even stories that Ms Macaulay had gone the way of all Mr Brown's previous girlfriends and been the victim of a "soft dumping" and the relationship was effectively over.

However, the couple were recently seen in each other's company at a 50th birthday party for the Agriculture Secretary Nick Brown, held at the Marquis of Granby pub near Westminster.

They were clearly "together", but what puzzled many of the other guests was why Ms Macaulay spent part of the evening sitting in a corner weeping. Mind you, it is the hayfever season.

Clean sweep

Deputy Prime Minister John "Two Jags" Prescott recently made an official visit to Sierra Leone - whose capital Freetown is twinned with his home city of Hull.

Before he went, his aide Derek Plews was despatched to check out the lie of the land.

Luckily for Mr Plews, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook was visiting the country shortly before Mr Prescott was die to go, so he hitched a ride on the ministerial plane.

That is all par for the course and no-one objected.

However, some of the Foreign Office officials were a bit miffed when they returned to Heathrow and were left searching for taxis to get then home.

Suddenly, a gleaming green Jaguar swept into view, picked up Mr Plews to whisked him back to Whitehall.

I hope Mr Prescott could spare one of his Jags.

Short service

Regulars in the Red Lion pub in Whitehall - known as the prime minister's local, despite the fact no-one has ever seen him drinking there - have been complaining for years about the height of the gents' urinal.

Even those of average height have found themselves having to stand on tip-toes to use the thing.

Now it has finally been lowered by four inches, so, according to the landlord, diminutive minister Ian McCartney no longer has to ask for a box whenever he wants to relieve himself.

Spy ring

The former boss of MI5, Paul Martin, is now the new director of information at the cabinet office.

His telephone number is particularly appropriate - it starts 007...

The Liberal Democrats are well known for being, well, liberal. But things appear to be going a bit far.

Press releases currently being emailed to journalists contain the following note: "the contents of this message may contain personal views which do not reflect the views of the Liberal Democrats unless specifically stated." So whose views might they reflect?

Turnip or not turnip?

Tony "Baldrick" Robinson was recently elected to Labour's ruling national executive - and he and his cunning plans will no doubt be a great asset to the party.

However, he couldn't resist having a friendly jibe at Labour peer Tom Sawyer - whom he beat in the NEC elections - when they both attended a bash for retiring union boss Rodney Bickerstaffe.

Mr Robinson introduced the lord in the following manner: "I now want to welcome the bloke who was beaten into second place on the NEC by a tosser with a turnip."

Gossip

If you have any political gossip or information on what our MPs are up to, e-mail Nick Assinder (all mails will be treated as confidential).

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