Bobbies threaten to come out if Commissioner is forced to quit

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Rank-and-file policemen have let it be known that if Sir Ian Blair is forced out of his job, they will consider strike action to support him.

Although the Met is not formally allowed to strike, the men in blue have made it clear within the police force that the capital could face "wildcat" industrial action from officers loyal to the Commissioner, who believe that his resignation would be "playing politics" with their reputation.

Since the police strike of 1919, it has been illegal for serving policemen to strike, but three years ago the then home secretary faced a near crisis when the Police Federation threatened to challenge the ban under human rights legislation.

Although the rule is still in place, it doesn't prevent the possibility of unauthorised action or mass resignations. Despite an influx of new coppers since the bombings, police recruitment levels remain low enough that this prospect terrifies the Home Office - and would be a PR disaster.

"It's basically pretty widely known around the Met offices that if Ian Blair goes, a lot of people will go with him," I am told. "Police officers resent interference and resent the fact that they have come in for so much criticism. Tempers here are frayed and there's a risk of it all boiling over."

An official spokesman yesterday refused to comment on the situation.

* As one of our foremost comic television personalities, Nick Hancock has enjoyed a glittering life on the small screen.

But in one of the oddest career moves ever announced, the star of They Think It's All Over and Room 101 has decided to join the marketing department of a mortgage company.

"I just fancied doing something a bit different," he tells me. "I'll be spending three days a week at the offices in Rotherham, overseeing sales strategy. I get a company phone and everything. It is actually quite exotic for me."

Hancock was introduced to the directors of Earth Mortgages through friends, and has just completed a three-week work experience placement there.

"I wanted to see if I would like it," he explains. "They didn't get me to make the tea, so I have signed my contract."

His CV is admittedly light on experience, but he's keen to point out that he's not entirely new to the business world.

"I've spent plenty of time doing voiceovers," he says.

* The architect Ken Shuttleworth, who last year split from his business partner, Norman Foster, has now left his wife of 17 years, Seana.

Shuttleworth established his own firm - Make - and was soon edited out of Lord Foster's history, even to the extent of being "disappeared" from an old team photograph.

His business has grown rapidly since then, but things have been less rosy on the domestic front.

"When he worked at Foster's, he was always seen as the nice guy," says a former colleague. "But since he left, he's become very corporate, and even bought himself a new wardrobe. Now he's got a new woman, too."

Shuttleworth himself is (understandably) reluctant to talk about his personal life.

* The actor Paul McGann was notably absent from the opening night of his three brothers' West End play Tom, Dick and Harry on Tuesday. And here's why.

A reader claims to have spotted McGann that very evening taking in a show at the National Theatre.

"I saw him in the upper bar of the Cottesloe during the interval of the last night of On The Shore of the Wide World," I'm told. "I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did."

It's a shame, as his family could have done with some support. Tom, Dick and Harry was described by one reviewer as "tiresome, silly, predictable, dated, hammy, limp, insensitive and almost entirely without a point".

Yesterday, McGann's agent was unwilling to comment.

* Emboldened by Pandora's successful bid to land him a gig presenting Have I Got News For You, Nicholas Parsons has perhaps overstepped the bounds of good taste in his next ambition.

With half an eye on the graveyard, he tells me he'd like to take over Countdown from the late Richard Whiteley.

"I would love to do it. Could you get someone to call me?" he asked me, following his show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

"It would be a different kettle of fish from Just A Minute, but I think I could adapt."

Parsons has even started to plan his costume. "It would be swapping ties for cravats," he said.