Mellor to repay advance on book after failing to deliver

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DAVID MELLOR is to pay back the substantial publisher's advance he received for a book of memoirs.

The former Conservative "Minister for Fun", who had been signed up by the publisher Michael Joseph for a rumoured pounds 200,000, had not delivered the manuscript and the project has been called off.

The book was tentatively titled Old Wine and Broken Bottles and was to have chronicled Mr Mellor's political experiences during the Thatcher and the Major eras. It appeared as a forthcoming title in the last two Michael Joseph catalogues.

"David has decided that he has not got enough time for the book," said his editor, Tom Weldon, "so we are formally cancelling our agreement and we have agreed that David will pay back the signature amount."

Mr Weldon, who has previously described what he had seen of the book as "sharp, candid, funny, and relentlessly honest", admitted being disappointed.

"I think he would have written a good book, but these things happen. It could be that David will do a book with us in the future, if he decides to do something else. I have always got on with him very well."

The memoirs deal was negotiated by Mr Mellor's agent, Sonia Land of Shiel Land. A spokeswoman for the company said: "David is just awfully busy with his newspaper column for the People and his radio and television work. It is a pity because it was to have been 'David Mellor Live and Unleashed'."

Since being defeated in his Putney seat at the general election last year, Mr Mellor has been appointed head of the Government's Football Task Force.

During his time in Parliament he served as arts minister, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Secretary of State for National Heritage, when he became renowned for his curt literary style in inter-departmental memos. His meteoric political career broke up in controversy in 1992 after newspaper reports that he had had an extra-marital affair with an actress, Antonia da Sancha. Michael Joseph says the memoirs would not have covered Mr Mellor's private life.

The former cabinet member, 49, was originally aiming to publish before the end of this year, and before John Major's memoirs reach the bookshops.

Last December Mr Mellor's personal assistant, Richard Jukes, was reported to have promised that the book would not be "the usual political autobiography".