Whilst the Commons

Privileges Committee spends the autumn pondering judgment on Tory MPs Messrs Tredinnick and Riddick, I gather that the concerns of many political consultancies have now moved well beyond the 'cash for questions' row. Instead they are concentrating on

recruiting Labour activists

preferably with Shadow Cabinet connections - to redress what has been a predominantly Tory

stronghold, should Tony Blair win the next election.

In view of the motion signed

recently by Labour, Liberal

Democrat and Welsh Nationalist MPs condemning the tactics of

Ian Greer, who promised an undercover Central television crew posing as company

representatives that he could get any parliamentary questions tabled, most firms are too

embarrassed to admit to hiring only a token number of

Opposition activists during the past 15 years of Tory rule.

Plenty however are happy to point fingers at others. 'There's no denying that Labour people are more marketable at the moment,' corroborates Chris Strutt,

Director of Roland Sallinbury Casey, which as I recorded earlier this year took the prudent step of hiring Lorna Fitzsimons, past president of the National Union

of Students. He adds, should there be any potential applicants: 'It's very useful to have them around. We are keeping an eye out for who is available.'

Struggling hard to emulate the literary success of his erstwhile partner Rob Newman, whose first novel Dependence Day is

receiving much acclaim, is David Baddiel (right). His manager Jonathan Thoday appears to be under the misapprehension that Virago, the exclusively feminist publishing house, should be interested in

releasing Baddiel's first tome (the subject of which is being kept a firm secret). At Virago they are completely flummoxed -

especially since, according to one insider, Thoday is proving to be a particularly persistent customer. Sadly Mr Baddiel is currently abroad filming so I was unable to enlighten him as to the futility of such bombardment; meanwhile, at Virago they are sincerely hoping that the embarrassment blows over before he returns.

As if Prince Charles did not have enough to worry about at the moment regarding his physical attributes, I gather an invitation is winging its way to him which can only add insult to injury. He has been asked to join the

International Ugly Club - a

secretive organisation headed by Telessoro Jacobelli, who is

reluctant to reveal the precise

criteria necessary for enrolment. From his office in Italy he stressed, rather rapidly, that he has only asked the Prince to be an honorary member and that it has more to do with his separation from a

beautiful wife, than with his

personal endowments. None the less the matter is likely to be

mentioned in a forthcoming

episode of Channel 4's Eurotrash

something I imagine the Prince could well do without.

Further to my note yesterday about the defection of Michael Romain, Norman Lamont's

erstwhile image-maker to Hollywood, I gather, quite coincidentally, that Romain's infamous former fellow

right-wing campaigner, Andrew Wigmore, has forsaken politics for the glitzy life too. He is spending the summer in Monaco - as a

presenter on Riviera Radio. 'I found it was better to be on this side of the media,' he explains jovially - remembering no doubt embarrassing revelations of a memo he wrote last year, campaigning for Michael Portillo to succeed John Major as Tory leader. He intends, however, to return to the political arena. 'I am going to be doing something in Europe very soon,' he promises. Watch this space for details.

The words 'Divine Intervention' are being whispered backstage at the Coliseum. No sooner had the ENO launched its massive appeal to raise pounds 40m for refurbishment on Wednesday lunchtime, than as if to emphasise the point there was a cloudburst and the stage - ready for a rehearsal - was flooded.

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