Brought to book: an unlikely helping hand for Slowhand

Despite being on the verge of signing one of the biggest book deals in history for his memoirs - bidding recently topped the £3.5m mark - Clapton has decided that he needs a helping hand in the literary department.

With this in mind, it emerges the most expensive autobiography in history is actually going to be ghostwritten by Clapton's chum, Christopher Simon Sykes, a professional photographer.

Sykes is best known for his work on grand country houses - published in volumes such as English Manor Houses and Great Houses of Scotland - but has interviewed Clapton, above, in the past, and took pictures of the Rolling Stones in the 1970s.

Although many rock-stars choose to have such memoirs ghosted, the extraordinary sums being offered for Clapton's book have caused many publishing sources to raise eyebrows at the appointment of the relatively inexperienced Sykes.

Discussing the appointment, Clapton's literary agent, Ed Victor - who is conducting the megabucks auction for the rights to the book - says Sykes's involvement will be more as a collaborator than a ghost-writer.

The impetus behind the project, he stresses, is Clapton's own: "He's reached a plateau in his life when looking back is something he'd like to do," he adds.

* The actor Kevin Whately - best known as Inspector Morse's sidekick DC Lewis - has stumbled upon a real-life conspiracy.

Whately, pictured left with the late John Thaw, detects a distinct whiff of fish in the way Granada compiled last month's show The Top Fifty ITV Programmes of All Time.

Although the show - in which Whately appeared - was supposedly compiled following a poll of TV viewers, only 50 programmes were ever put on to the voting list.

"They asked me on to talk about my favourite ITV programmes, but when I couldn't think of any off the top of my head, they gave me this pre-prepared list," he says.

"They'd already decided what was going to be on the list. It was a fix, and the shows that won were all made by Granada."

Asked about Whately's comments - made at Roberta Taylor's recent book launch - ITV sources said they'd "never made any secret" of the polling methods.

"He's just jealous because Morse was beaten into fourth place by three Granada shows," I'm told.

* Sir Trevor Nunn hasn't exactly been milking the success of his latest smash-hit, the Old Vic's production of Richard II.

The director was notable by his absence from Wednesday's cast party to celebrate the play's successful launch - at the City Inn hotel in London.

"Anyone who's had anything to do with the Old Vic in recent years was there, as was Kevin Spacey, so it was a surprise not to see Trevor," says one guest.

"Quite a few theories about this were doing the rounds. It's even been suggested that - since Nunn's wife Imogen Stubbs isn't in this play - he couldn't get a 'pink ticket' to attend."

The Old Vic insists otherwise. "He's got work commitments in the States," they say. "Both Kevin and Trevor would be hurt and offended if you were to suggest a rift between them." Heaven forbid!

* The Tatler editor Geordie Greig held forth on Tory affairs on Wednesday after being invited on to Andrew Neil's Daily Politics programme.

Behind the scenes, Greig's appearance on the show has sparked rumours that he's about to be offered Boris Johnson's job editing The Spectator magazine.

Those in the know point out that Neil - who is now top dog at the Speccie - was once Greig's boss at The Sunday Times, and remains a fervent and vocal admirer of his former protégé.

Both men attended the launch of Brett Easton Ellis's new book Lunar Park later that day, but Neil jovially declined to comment, when I asked if Greig's appointment might be imminent.

Bouncy Tintin lookalike Greig was also keeping schtum. But a friend tells me: "Let's just say that he will rule nothing in or out."

* Action man David Davis yesterday attempted to paper over a few cracks by telling the BBC that - despite his gobbling turkey of a conference speech - he's still "odds-on favourite" to win the Tory leadership.

According to sources who may (or may not) be endorsing rival candidates, this was a lie. In fact, the bookies were forced to ease Davis out from 4-5 on to 5-4 against in the hours that followed his turgid appearance.

By last night, he'd slipped to a whopping 13-8. "Forget the fact he's told a porkie pie," says a somewhat lofty observer. "It's come to something when a man who's angling to be our next prime minister starts quoting bookmakers odds."