Campbell lets cat out of the bag over his memoirs

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The Independent Online

* When Alastair Campbell joked that his memoirs will one day provide a handsome "pension" fund, colleagues guffawed at his cocky Lancastrian wit.

They won't be laughing now, though. For Tony Blair's favourite spinner has for the first time confirmed that he really does intend to publish an autobiography.

It won't just gloss over the gory details, either. Rather than restricting himself to one volume, Campbell intends to "publish a series of books" on his time at Downing Street.

The admission was made in a letter to the Commons Public Administration Committee, which is holding an inquiry into political memoirs following the controversies over Sir Christopher Meyer and Lance Price.

In the letter, Campbell pledges to delay publication until Tony Blair leaves office. Depending on who you believe, that could be as soon as next year.

"I do intend to publish a series of books about my experiences in politics at some time, but I would consider it wrong to publish... at a time detrimental to the interests of the Government or the party I serve," it reads.

"I'm in little doubt that publication would be used to try to damage the Government, the Labour Party, the Prime Minister and others. For that reason alone, I have decided against early publication."

Although Campbell wrote the letter before Christmas, details of its existence only slipped out yesterday at a meeting of the PAC. The hunt is now on for a publisher.

* Gary Rhodes puts his name to so many restaurants that it's hard to see how he finds time for all those TV appearances.

Not all of the spiky-haired superchef's culinary ventures go according to plan, though.

Several months after it was due to open, work on his "fine dining" restaurant at the Cumberland Hotel has stalled, in mysterious circumstances.

The upmarket joint, which was supposed to be unveiled in October, is currently sitting empty and undecorated.

Rhodes wasn't returning calls on the matter yesterday, and all the hotel would say was: "We're in talks with interior designers, but can't confirm an opening date at present."

But his sister brasserie at the Cumberland, Rhodes W1, got (at best) mixed reviews when it opened last year.

One writer thought it: "a shocker, displaying a complacency that straddles the borderline with contempt."

Another critic reckoned: "It has the charm of a Bolton Novotel conference centre and buffet hall."

* An unexpected guest jollified proceedings at the launch of the Sony Sports Personality of the Year awards yesterday.

Rubbing shoulders with Amir Khan and other national heroes was Faria Alam the former FA secretary who featured in the recent series of Celebrity Big Brother.

It's an odd call, since Alam's sporting pedigree has been limited to a brief session of horizontal jogging with Sven Goran Eriksson.

She is, nonetheless, booked in as a "special guest" at the award ceremony itself, which counts as the most prestigious in the sporting calendar after the BBC's.

Organisers won't say what Alam's exact role on the night will be, but claim she was invited both as a role model and to encourage diversity.

"A major point of the Sony awards is to promote Asian participation in sport," they say. "Faria Alam has been a great supporter of this."

I'm sure the Asian community will be delighted.

* News of Simon Hoggart's departure as the host of the Radio 4 show News Quiz leaves colleagues wondering: did he jump, or was he pushed?

This week, the libidinous sketch-writer said that, after a decade in the hot seat, "I'm a bit clapped-out and jaded, and I think that's beginning to show."

The BBC strongly denies rumours that he was booted out as part of controller Mark Damazer's "modernisation", which recently did for the Radio 4 UK theme.

Still, things haven't been the same since 2004, when (shortly before he was unmasked as one of Kimberly Fortier's many lovers) Hoggart asked listeners: "Why aren't I getting some of this Sextator action?"

* Chris Huhne is taking up a poisoned chalice in his campaign for the Liberal Democrat leadership.

He's accepting support from Lembit Opik MP, who in recent weeks has championed Charles Kennedy and Mark Oaten, and defended Simon Hughes.

This morning, Opik, an amateur pilot, will fly Huhne from Aberystwyth to London, where his campaign is formally launched. "Chris was on Question Time last night, and could only make the launch if he flew back," says spokesman Jacob Rigg. "Dimbleby is also hitching a lift."

Supporters of rival candidates may criticise the gas-guzzling trip, but Huhne has pledged to make it "CO2 neutral" by planting a few trees.

Apropos of the "curse" of Opik, his camp insists: "Lembit isn't formally endorsing us; this is just a favour to a friend."