Beeb left waiting for Falkender's legal action

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The Independent Online

Anyone who was gearing up for a scintillating court tussle between one of the grandest dames of British politics, Lady Falkender of West Haddon, and the BBC should prepare for disappointment.

Last year, Pandora revealed that the 74-year-old Baroness, who served as Harold Wilson's political secretary, had launched legal action against the BBC4 docudrama The Lavender List.

Her upmarket lawyers Carter Ruck claimed that the programme, scripted by Private Eye wag Francis Wheen, was defamatory. Notably, that it alleged that Falkender, in her days has plain old Marcia Williams, had an affair with Wilson and that she had drafted Wilson's controversial resignation honours.

But 11 months since the legal action was launched, there appears to have been no movement. Usually in libel cases, a claim form must be issued within one year of publication.

"There's been absolutely no activity whatsoever," Wheen tells me. "She sent out this letter through her lawyers last year which said she'd be suing, but nothing seems to have happened.

"I did wonder whether she was trying to put the frighteners on us."

Falkender's beef with the BBC puzzled some observers since most of the allegations had already been aired unchallenged in the memoirs of Wilson's former press secretary, Joe Haines.

A spokesman for Carter Ruck claims both parties are "in discussions" and that Lady F was hoping for an acceptable resolution. "If they don't, proceedings will be issued," I'm told.

Emma's word on the White House

Emma Thompson has stepped forward to offer her tuppence worth on the dog-eat-dog world of American politics.

"At the next election I really want Hillary Clinton to run with that guy Obama on her ticket, do you think that could ever happen?" she said to me recently.

"Between them they'd get both the female vote and the black vote and then they'd have the whole election sown up."

Thompson, you might remember, has a bit of a connection with Hil. Ten years ago, she played an ambitious political spouse that was strongly based on the then-First Lady in Mike Nichols' critically acclaimed political satire "Primary Colors".

Presumably if all goes to plan in the Clinton camp, Thompson could be asked to play her again in another 10 years time to which she added: "Well you never know. I'd love to see a female President."

Commons touch for Spall

Two weeks ago, Pandora reported a sighting of the wonderfully rotund character actor, Timothy Spall, peering over at the green benches from the Commons gallery.

Spall was sat listening intently to John Prescott's booming vowels, leading to whispers that a portrayal of Prezza must be in the offing.

In fact, Spall was there on business with David Cameron's chief whip, Patrick McLoughlin.

"Patrick's a childhood friend of my wife and he'd asked me for lunch. No, I definitely wasn't researching anything," he explains.

"It was a fun afternoon. I'd been to Number 11 and Number 10 after Labour got in but that was my first visit to the Commons."

Top banana?

The future of the House of Lords is very much up for debate at the moment. So as you might imagine, some pretty serious discussions are going on in the upper chamber right now. Pretty serious indeed.

Labour peer Lord Hoyle has tabled a question to the Lords' Chairman of the Committees demanding to know what steps are being taken to find the House alternative suppliers of Fair Trade bananas.

He's been issued a response stating: "Discussions have begun into the possible purchase of Fair Trade bananas from the House of Commons in the event that a supplier for the House of Lords cannot be found."

The outcome of these discussions are not yet know. Once they are, Pandora will be sure to let you know.

The award for best-dressed goes to...

Two of our finest auteurs, Paul Greengrass and Stephen Frears, collected well-deserved gongs at last week's London Film Critics' Circle Awards. Both men, however, committed the social faux pas of arriving at the black tie event in London's swanky Dorchester Hotel wearing scruffy Converse tennis shoes. Frears, who picked up best director for The Queen, blamed his raffish red numbers on his family, using that old chestnut: "The women told me what to wear". Greengrass, winner of best film for United 93, insisted his black plimsolls were "the mark of any fine director". "I shall be recommending them to [fellow nominess] Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood for the Oscars," he told me. I do hope not. The Academy Awards' strict dress code would more than likely result in him being booted from the ceremony on to an LA sidewalk.