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Lord Beaumont, who surprised Liberal Democrats by defecting to the Green Party last week, does not think he is unique. "I left because I could no longer reconcile my concern for the environment and a belief in free trade," the life peer explains, "and there are other Liberal Democrats who feel the same way." Beaumont, who spoke on environmental issues in the Lords for the Lib Dems, admits that had Simon Hughes beaten Charles Kennedy in the leadership contest, he might have stayed. He may be the only Green peer in the House of Lords, but he believes that his status is not without precedent. "I am not the first Green peer; there was one some time ago, but nobody can seem to remember his name. I hope I don't go down the same path."

WHATEVER HAPPENS to Lord Beaumont, at least he has not yet suffered the indignity of Lord McNair. He is one of the hereditary peers who will soon be hanging up his ermine for the last time, having lost out in last week's ballot. At least he lost in style - he was the only peer to gain just one vote.

Michael Portillo - "tweenie" sensation? Portillo's campaign for Kensington & Chelsea has started in earnest, with a charm offensive at a local school. Falkner House school for girls, which teaches the offspring of the royal, the rich and the famous, called in Portillo last Friday to "help the girls keep abreast of current events". The presence of the former minister went down well with the "tweenies" (the school is for girls up to 11 years old) who apparently mobbed him in large numbers to get his autograph. When one mother asked her daughter why the politician had visited her school, the girl replied: "Because he's running for prime minister, silly!" Out of the mouths of babes...

MIKE LEIGH says that his arthritis won't be slowing him down. Though he has been seen recently on a single crutch, he vows never to be "one of those directors sitting in a chair with a megaphone". Leigh, who will attend tonight's premiere of his film Topsy Turvy, jokes: "I'm going to be across the set with my crutch, lashing at people and tripping them up."

Michael Douglas isn't the only family member impressed by the charms of Catherine Zeta Jones. Cameron, Michael's teenage son, is also a huge fan. According to Star magazine the 19-year-old has a raunchy poster of Catherine hanging in his bedroom, but has come to terms with the idea that she is to be his stepmother. Whether he will ever accept that he is closer to Zeta Jones in age than his father is quite another matter.

MEANWHILE, KATHLEEN Turner, a former co-star of Michael Douglas, is rumoured to be hitting the West End next year. The London vehicle for the star is said to be the stage version of The Graduate.

Since the production is not a musical, there's no need for Simon and Garfunkel fans to get excited.

Commuters in London relieved that the Jubilee Line is soon to be fully (ish) open may like to know that some staff don't hold out much hope of a smooth ride. Asked why there are so many signal failures on the line between Waterloo and Stratford, one London Underground employee replied with commendable lack of jargon: "Because it's crap, and a complete waste of pounds 3.5bn of taxpayers' money."

THE SOUND of white coats flapping will die away after the next election. Sir Richard Body, MP for Boston and Skegness, is standing down. He will be missed by politicians and comedians alike. In his autobiography, the ex-prime minister John Major, who coined the phrase for the ardent Eurosceptic rebel and Barmy Army member, recalls: "Richard Body once said publicly that he had been cajoled into supporting the government on a vote, after a call from the prime minister. I was puzzled by this, since I had not made any such call. He had, we found out, been duped by the TV impressionist

Rory Bremner."