Blunkett's gone, but DNA firm still needs 'crisis management'

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The Independent Online

DNA Bioscience, the paternity-testing firm at the heart of the scandal that prompted Blunkett's resignation, has decided to employ a "crisis management" PR firm to repair its tattered image.

The company, of which Blunkett was a director and a shareholder, has brought in an outfit called Luther Pendragon in an effort to convince us that it's an ethical and successful institution.

It's an interesting call, since Luther Pendragon has a track record of spinning for New Labour's controversial business associates. Former clients include the Hinduja brothers, who were embroiled in the downfall of Peter Mandelson.

It will now campaign against calls for DNA Bioscience to be banned from bidding for government contracts. Other priorities will be distancing Tariq Siddiqi, right - the businessman who introduced Blunkett, left, to estate agent Sally Anderson - from the firm.

A spokesman for Luther Pendragon confirmed yesterday that it was now handling all inquiries for DNA Bioscience.

* Days after Rebekah Wade walloped her husband, Ross Kemp, I hear of another public altercation between two noted ginger-nuts.

Screen-writer Lynda La Plante ran into her arch-nemesis, Anne Robinson, at the Ivy Restaurant last week.

It was the first time they'd met since an episode of The Weakest Link when Robbo wrongly accused LLP of lying about her age to adopt a son, Lorcan.

"You can't imagine the suffering Lynda went through," says a friend. "She could have lost her son. So when she saw Anne two tables away, she decided to confront her."

The restaurant fell silent as LLP strode purposefully to the table: "I am Lynda La Plante and you destroyed my life for a year," she said.

"This isn't the time or the place," said Robinson.

"Neither was a television show with 2 million viewers," she replied.

Adds one witness: "Robinson went beetroot red, and Lynda returned to her table, with the applause of fellow diners ringing in her ears."

* Mike Leigh's latest blockbuster Two Thousand Years, a study of a Jewish family from Cricklewood, has been London's "hot ticket" since its launch last month.

Now: the backlash. Maureen Lipman, something of a Mother Goose figure in Jewish circles, said recently that the play by Leigh, right, is "naive and simplistic", and accused him of "culling ideas" from the left-wing press.

Since this comment raised the great man's blood pressure somewhere beyond the point of safety, Pandora invited Lipman to elaborate at the opening of her own new play, Glorious, last week.

"I don't really want to go into it, since it was just an opinion," she said. "But you will find that if you actually speak to a lot of Jewish people they will have exactly the same reservations as I do." She will return to the matter in print, shortly.

* On Saturday, the Welsh rugby team was taken to the cleaners by the touring All Blacks. Fortunately, Plaid Cymru had its bases covered. Before the game kicked off, the Welsh nationalist party's leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, had already issued his reaction to its result.

In one press release, written on Friday, he said: "This is a fantastic victory and shows that Wales is a real force in the world of rugby. Congratulations to all the boys on the pitch ... Wales can be proud of them."

In another, also released on Friday, he mused: "Despite the defeat, Wales have come a long way in the past few years. It was a hard game when we had many injuries; it was good preparation for the next World Cup."

Nothing like being prepared!

* Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe is the latest cultural icon whose efforts to "crack" the lucrative Chinese market have been thwarted by the dead hand of censorship.

His latest book, Drawing Blood, was to be printed in China. However, much production was moved offshore after complaints from the local thought police.

"We had to print half the copies in Hong Kong, because there were major objections to a picture of Chairman Mao giving birth to hundreds of workers," he explains.

"Someone also said 'there are too many erect willies.' I asked what the problem with that was, and got the reply: 'Too big.' So I replied: 'Well, that's the way they are over here'."

The Queen dines with China's President, Hu Jintao, tomorrow. Scarfe, and others, wonder whether his state visit is entirely appropriate.