A royal stitch-up? 'Panorama' looks at wedding 'shambles'

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The Independent Online

Stand by for fireworks on Sunday, then, because the Beeb intends to screen yet another Panorama investigation into the Prince of Wales's marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles.

The show has - somewhat ominously - been given the title A Right Royal Shambles?, and is expected to look into claims that the couple, above, did not have a legal wedding service.

Not surprisingly, press bumf suggests that it will make uneasy viewing for the Royal Household.

"Days after the wedding was announced, Panorama first revealed doubts that it would be illegal for Prince Charles to have a civil ceremony at all," reads a summary of the show.

"Other embarrassing problems were to follow - a mix-up over the venue; dissent within the Church of England; the Queen's decision not to attend the big day; a disastrous gaffe by the Prince in the media; and the possibility of a clash with the Pope's funeral."

Although Sunday's show will detail all these cock-ups - and more - in advance of the couple's first foreign tour, the BBC is anxious to avoid accusations of creating a hatchet-job.

By way of evidence that they will provide a balanced portrait, a spokesman tells me: "The show is not called A Right Royal Shambles, it's called A Right Royal Shambles question mark."

* One of the great culinary disputes of modern times is at an end. Tom Aikens has finally returned to Pied à Terre, the London restaurant that sacked him for (allegedly) branding a trainee chef with a hot palette knife.

Five years after the incident, Aikens and the restaurant's owner David Moore have made peace, and were expected to publicly shake hands at Pied à Terre's relaunch last night.

Moore's spokesman said yesterday that Aikens has also buried the hatchet with Shane Osborn, who replaced him as head chef there.

"Shane was Tom's sous chef at the time, when there was a revolt by staff, and witnessed everything," I'm told. "He found it difficult, and still doesn't feel great about it. But they've got together and decided to lay the whole thing to rest."

After leaving Pied à Terre, Aikens founded his own restaurant in Chelsea. He hasn't "branded" any staff there, but did make headlines for angrily accusing a customer of pilfering a teaspoon.

* Sir Cliff Richard recently went into a recording studio with the pop-opera group G4 to record a new version of his 1990s hit "Miss You Nights".

The project did not go entirely according to plan. First, the so-called Peter Pan of pop arrived several hours late; then he nipped off afterwards with little more than a "by your leave" for his co-stars.

At yesterday's Gramophone Awards, G4 singer Jonathan Ansell told me: "Cliff arrived two hours late. There had been some huge pile-up on the M25 or something, but he did stay afterwards for 20 minutes to chat."

"I don't think he actually knew who we were, though. Our record company Sony put us together because we have a similar demographic."

Rock and Roll!

* Besides persecuting harmless pensioners, the Labour Party has devoted its annual conference to getting cosy with corporate Britain.

Two examples spring to mind. First, the Fabian Society organised a fringe meeting with Alan Whitehead MP on "environmental challenges". It was paid for by Wessex Water, whose finance director Keith Harris shared the platform.

"An odd choice of sponsor," notes one guest. "In July, the Environment Agency announced that Wessex Water was fined six times last year for environmental pollution, an increase on the previous year."

Elsewhere, eagle-eyed delegates were concerned to see Patricia Hewitt - the minister responsible for giving NHS contracts to private companies - invited to a reception by Lodestone Patient Care, a firm bidding for those very contracts.

* Modern pop stars prefer class "A"s, but the performers of yesteryear are made of softer stuff. Dean Friedman - the 1970s crooner who sang Lucky Stars - is to be sponsored by Goldenseed, a firm that flogs cannabis seeds over the internet.

Under a deal announced yesterday, punters at Friedman's forthcoming UK tour will be handed free samples of the firm's produce. Apparently this is all entirely legal.

"Technically, according to UK law, possession and sale of cannabis seeds is legal unless they germinate," Friedman says.

"So as long as it doesn't rain and the seeds don't get wet, everything we're doing is perfectly legal."

Friedman also has a new album out, which is accompanied by the following "parental advisory" warning: "This CD contains irresponsible endorsement of illegal substances."