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Political gossip from Parliament's Atrium Cafe

Smellthecoffee I've just a few minutes to jot this down.  My boss has sent me to 'research' whether he can use his Additional Costs Allowance (ie MPs' expenses) to pay for various gifts he gave to constituents for Christmas.  Scraping  together enough money for one of the Despatch Box's subsidised cappuccinos, the lure of coffee has drawn me to my favourite corner of Portcullis House for a gossip with the girls.  I can't think why they call us The Coven?

What's on the menu?  The boss says there's a big Iraq debate this week.  He voted for the war but wishes he hadn't.  All the ones he calls the "usual suspects" will speak, whereas the boss will be polishing his niblet and improving his swing.

Flavour of the week: Two MPs Ann Milton and Jeremy Hunt have got special brownie points.  Apparently they slept out all night in a very cold Parliament Square to protest.  I don't know what about - undoubtedly something very worthy.  Their pluck will make them famous and admired (that's what one of their staff told me).

Not selling well: Poor Mr Graham Stuart.  He is the MP who worked so hard to get elected to the Conservative Party Board.  Why do we need MPs on it?  Now he's there, or so my friends at Starbucks (The Coven's name for CCHQ) tells me, Graham is disillusioned and miserable.  He thought there would be power - or at least influence, but at one recent meeting most of the time was taken up with a tiresome association and its troubles from the north.  It's more bored than board.

Connoisseur's choice: My chum who works in the Lords says that the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham made an excellent speech on regulations about homosexual people and church matters.  I suppose when the Lords are elected and all are ex MPs, wannabe MPs and retired local government people, the speeches will be as grim as they are now in the Commons.  The Bish was moderate and thoughtful.  Unlike Lord Tebbit's, who also spoke.  The Boss says he is too mad even for 'The Tory Taliban'; Cash, Leigh and the rest.

Overheard: A researcher who I sometimes share a photocopier with tells me that Peter Viggers MP will step down at the next election and three A-listers have been encouraged to sniff round Gosport.  I wonder if they know where Gosport is?

I'll be back next week but must get on with some work now.  See you in the Atrium sometime?


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