A Labour of love - from Blue Peter to Bethnal Green

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The Independent Online

Of all his interviews these last nine years, Tony Blair's encounter with Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq this summer was the most obsequious - the pair cheerfully discussingthe size of his house and his cooking inabilities. (Tony's favourite egg box-based creation was, alas, omitted.)

So who might this be, piping up in Bethnal Green and Bow as a prospective Labour candidate at the next general election? None other than Dr Rupa Huq - sister of Konnie, hip-hop DJ and lecturer in youth culture. (Pandora will post poisoned naan bread to anyone who writes in with "spin doctor" jokes.)

Dr Huq (her radio name) has form, polling 6,500 votes as Labour's cannon fodder in the Tory seat of Chesham and Amersham last year. She has met Blair several times (with the PM even mistaking Konnie for Rupa).

"I would like to put myself forward," Rupa tells me. "I'm the only Bengali woman who's ever stood for Parliament, and I'm not a boring one-dimensional politician.

"With the right candidate, the seat's winnable. It has to be a Bangladeshi to be honest to beat George Galloway."

The selection battle will be bitterly fought. Former MP Oona King has not ruled out standing. Locals John Biggs and Abdal Ullah are privately keen on the seat.

Laughs a local activist: "Rupa would be the ideal Bengali tigress to tame Galloway's pussycat. She spent the Labour conference trying to charm Bethnal Green delegates. One local bigwig told her to get knotted, but she was undeterred."

I suppose we can give her a badge for effort.

Spacey fires an unscripted rocket

Kevin Spacey has endured a bumpy ride at the hands of the British press since walking through the doors of the Old Vic two years ago.

Yesterday, he took issue with one tale of recent, which claimed "Space" coached Tony Blair prior to his party conference speech.

Appearing on Radio 4's Start the Week, Spacey informed presenter Sue Macgregor, in non-Broadcasting House jargon, that the story was "complete bollocks".

"The only thing that surprised me is that it appeared in the [Sunday] Telegraph and we know the editor there and we know the people there," he said. "What does it take for someone to pick up the phone and ask whether a story they've heard is true?" (Assuming a straight answer.)

Doing nothing to dispel his cosy relationship with No 10, Spacey added: "Why would I help Tony Blair when it's David Cameron who needs help?"

The gospel of Jay Kay

Midday is a little early for a pop star to leave bed, so we take our (most ridiculous) hat off to Jamiroquai's Jay Kay, who staggered into the Q magazine music awards one hour and 40 minutes late yesterday lunchtime.

The dazed, bedraggled musician headed straight for the bar, only to find it closed, to his considerable annoyance. An apparatchik was dispatched to his table with a mojito.

With the zeal of an anti-drugs messenger, Mr Kay (who dabbles in organic gardening away from his recording studio) offered Pandora's green-fingered readers some advice: "Just don't put any of that shit on it, it's not worth it. Keep it clean."

Oasis won the coveted Best Act in the World Today award. Said Noel Gallagher, of brother Liam: "I suppose I should really thank our kid, but as he isn't here... fuck him! Seriously, he's gone to the zoo. The monkeys are bringing their kids to look at him."

No photographers were punched.

Acting up

For a man of some 76 years standing, Harold Pinter has lost none of his trademark bite.

The old leftie pitched up at the National Gallery last week for the launch of the National Café, and got chatting with other guests.

One young lady enquired how he was enjoying his time on the London stage in Krapp's Last Tape, currently at the Royal Court.

"For God's sake!" he barked. "I've been acting for over 50 years!"

And with that, he bade her a less than fond farewell with an aggressive flick of his walking stick.

Birt croons along in Camden

Lord (John) Birt has never escaped the playwright Dennis Potter's description of him as a "croak-voiced Dalek". Now we know why: in between sessions plotting world domination strategy in his offices at the BBC and then Downing Street, he was actually crooning songs by The Who.

Pandora spotted Birt in the audience for the band's storming BBC Electric Proms gig at Camden's Roundhouse on Sunday. A fan of The Who since the 60s, he played the drums on his knees (he had a seated ticket) and clapped, accompanied by the Beeb's deputy director-general Mark Byford, who showed off his wild air guitar.

"Yes it's a perk of having done the job," said Birt. "Even though The Who have been around for years they sound so fresh." To my disappointment, he did not then swivel to face a neighbouring fan, poke a flame-spewing sink plunger out of the sleeve of his jacket, and turn the man to toast.

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