Blair's Brighton prang: an eyewitness comes forward

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The Independent Online

* With or without Alastair Campbell at its helm, the Downing Street press office takes a hard line against stories that it happens to find inconvenient.

* With or without Alastair Campbell at its helm, the Downing Street press office takes a hard line against stories that it happens to find inconvenient.

Two days ago, Pandora reported that the Camden New Journal had accused Tony Blair of running over a one-legged Iraqi orphan, Zeynab Hamid Taresh, near right, at last week's party conference in Brighton.

"Behind his darkened windows, Tony Blair and his entourage would have known nothing of the tears shed by the one-legged Iraqi girl flung backwards against the pavement," reads its report. "The black people carrier brushed against her at high speed, knocking her crutches from under her."

When asked about the matter, Tony Blair's spokesman went on the offensive. "We regret that Zeynab was frightened, but the Prime Minister did not travel in a people carrier at the conference,"she said. "It must have been someone else."

Yesterday, however, freelance journalist Lee Gordon got in touch. He was with Zeynab at the time of the incident, recording a video-diary of her trip to the conference.

Apparently, she was knocked over by a car in Blair's convoy, though not necessarily the PM's own car. And what is more, Gordon caught the whole thing on camera.

Yesterday, despite the new evidence, Downing Street wasn't returning my calls.

* IN RECENT times, Rosamund Pike has attracted more suitors than the heroine of a Jane Austen bodice-ripper.

Having ditched her longstanding boyfriend Simon Woods, Pike enjoyed a summer romance with a budding artist, Henry John.

That came to an end a week or two back, and now the porcelain-skinned beauty has found love on the set of her new film, which (appropriately enough) is a Working Title version of Pride and Prejudice .

"No sooner had I heard about Henry and Ros than she's run off with someone on the set of P&P ," says a chum. "We've not been told his name yet, but apparently he's pretty famous."

Contenders, therefore, include Pike's co-star Tom Hollander and her director, Joe Wright.

Woods is also in the film, but can be ruled out of calculations: he "came out" after splitting from Pike, and is now dating a young man called Nick.

* GURINDER CHADHA'S new flick Bride and Prejudice - touted as the first mainstream Bollywood movie - is the subject of a press pack distributed to journalists at recent screenings.

Unfortunately, the goon who wrote it had an over-zealous spellchecker, which didn't recognise the word Bollywood.

"Every time it appears in my release, it's been replaced by 'Hollywood'," I'm told.

Chadha's release therefore notes: "Hollywood dominates Indian film production ... In Hollywood, there's simply no kissing - it's heavily frowned upon by the Indian censors," and (most splendidly) "Hollywood is an equivalent industry to Hollywood".

* SHEKHAR KAPUR will tonight talk with Barry Norman at a fundraiser for the Jaisalmer in Jeopardy appeal.

In order to attend the event at the V&A, the lofty film director has been flown in from Mumbai in some style.

There is bad feeling over this, and the Asian lifestyle magazine Another Generation (originally planning to donate free copies to guests at the bash) has withdrawn its support. "I feel the travel expense could be spent on better things," says its editor. "I supported the event last year, but I won't this time."

Organisers say Kapur's ticket was supplied by sponsors, and did not cost the charity a penny. An ugly row, all the same.

* For Pandora, crossing swords with a celebrity is part of a day's work. For the rest of you, it's a rare challenge. So I've put a bottle of champagne on ice for a reader able to hold two of my "betters" to account.

On 18 October, Cancer Research UK holds a "turn the tables" lunch at the Savoy, at which two eminent politicians - Oliver Letwin and Diane Abbott - will interview Sir Trevor McDonald and Edward Stourton.

Being (relative) novices at this sort of thing, Letwin and Abbott require a helping hand, and would like you to think up a "killer question" for them.

Suggestions can be e-mailed or posted to the usual address. A bottle of Dom Perignon 1996 awaits the reader responsible for the best entry.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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