Blunkett's £4m Belgravia pad to be put up for sale

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The Independent Online

Now that David Blunkett has finally vacated his grace-and- favour pad in Belgravia, the huffing and puffing over his refusal to leave has come to an end.

In fact, there'll be no more controversy surrounding the property in the future at all since the Treasury has decided the house will soon be placed on the market.

The luxury house was at the centre of a bitter row last November when this newspaper revealed that Tony Blair was to let Blunkett remain at the taxpayer-funded residence despite his no longer being a minister.

Blunkett responded furiously to our report, claiming it was "misleading" to infer that he would remain there for so long. "I've put up with distortion about my private life for the past six months," he wrote. " I did not expect a respected newspaper to continue in this vein."

As it was, he was still living there four months later and only recently moved out. But since his departure, officials have now examined the building and have decided it is no longer credible as a safe house for ministers at risk from terrorist attack.

The sale will provide a boost to the Treasury's coffers as property experts expect it to fetch as much as £4m. It will also come as a huge relief to residents who often complained about police cars coming and going at all hours of the day.

Previous tenants in the house have included the former Tory leader Michael Howard and the late Mo Mowlam - who once complained the rooms were "poky".

* Say what you like about the Countess of Wessex, she's clearly one of the less stuffy members of the royal household.

The Countess will attend the Blush Ball tomorrow night in aid of her charity, Breast Cancer Haven. But in a risqué move by the bash's organisers, the evening will kick off with a raunchy performance by the celebrated stripper Dita Von Teese.

Von Teese - who recently married goth rock star Marilyn Manson - will apparently be performing her "fan dance" which involves a routine wearing only a feather boa and a set of nipple tassels.

"I'm not sure if Sophie knows if there's a stripper performing," says a spokesman for the evening. "But she's a huge supporter of the charity and I'm sure Dita will bring a smile to her face."

If so, she won't be the only one in royal circles to appreciate the undoubted charms of Miss Von Teese. Pandora once spotted the Prince of Wales's tough-nut press secretary, Paddy Harveson, out enjoying one of her perfomances.

* Showbusiness can be a cruel game, just ask TV presenter Liz Fuller.

Just weeks after Fuller, below, was reported to have been given the elbow from organising the Miss Great Britain beauty pageant by the fashion mogul Robert de Keyser (who described her as "an absolute nightmare"), she's now undertaken a graveyard presenting slot on channel Five.

She's even sent a begging e-mail around to friends pleading with them to stay up and watch her new show.

"Hey guys, am launching Quiz Call, the interactive live TV show this Saturday night/ [Sunday] morning on channel FIVE, and would love you to tune in if still madly awake or just getting home from clubbing/ or just out," it reads.

"Quiz Call will be after the Sat night film, this week it's a long one so will be on at a very mad time of 1.40 am-ish."

Not exactly living the dream.

* Such is the success of their popular book club, Britain's chat-show power duo Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan are credited with changing the nation's reading habits.

But they won't find too many friends at the Booksellers Association. According to this week's Bookseller magazine, the couple have angered the BA council who claim the show's website is undercutting booksellers by selling certain titles at deep discounts.

The accusation has brought a furious reaction from the show's creator, Amanda Ross, who claims the website sales are "pathetically negligible".

"If the [BA] want to complain, they've got a cheek," she says. "I've been pushing people into bookshops for the past four years."


* Last year, Jeremy Paxman put it to David Davis that he'd been described by those he'd worked with as "a thug, bully, an adventurer, disloyal, congenitally treacherous and winner of the whips' office shit of the year award".

Davis countered that it was only the view of a small group, but recent events would suggest otherwise.

Pandora has learnt that DD's chief of staff, Kate Hall, has already quit days after taking up the post. Hall apparently started a fortnight ago, but was already clearing her desk early last week.

The story doesn't do much to dispel Davis's tricky image, though I'm told this time the blame doesn't lie squarely with him. One source describes Hall as "a bit stroppy."