Charles opens his books - but will 'ghastly people' be invited?

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The Independent Online

* Yesterday, Buckingham Palace held its nose, and released public accounts showing that - among other things - Prince Charles spent £400,000 chartering a private jet to visit victims of the tsunami.

* Yesterday, Buckingham Palace held its nose, and released public accounts showing that - among other things - Prince Charles spent £400,000 chartering a private jet to visit victims of the tsunami.

Next Thursday, we can look forward to more juicy titbits, when the Prince publishes his own annual report.

In a gesture towards accountability, Clarence House has agreed that (for only the second time) it will include a breakdown of how Prince Charles spends his, and our, money.

Unfortunately, there is growing confusion over how the report is actually going to be released to the gossip-hungry media.

Royal spin doctors are anxious to avoid a repeat of last year, when a press conference was held by the Prince's private secretary, Michael Peat.

It turned into a PR disaster after awkward questions were asked about expenditure on Charles's (then) mistress Camilla Parker Bowles, and his bag carrier Michael Fawcett.

This time, no press conference has yet been scheduled, and the Prince's office refuses to say what time the report will be made available to the media. There are fears that - taking a leaf from New Labour's book - they are hoping to bury bad news.

All of which is hardly helped by their official stance on the report's release. With seven days to go, a spokesman says: "We haven't decided about a press conference." As to other arrangements: "I've no idea when any decision will be reached."

* Sir Elton John is on the receiving end of a delightfully petty complaint from the cast of his new musical, Billy Elliot.

Yesterday's edition of The Stage takes issue with his behaviour at a charity performance of the show last week.

It notes that while Sir Elton and celebrity chums were whisked off for a champagne dinner afterwards, the cast was sent on its way without so much as a vol-au-vent.

"We put our heart and soul into that performance believing that it was such a good cause," one actor tells the paper.

"Then Sir Elton and guests swanned off in a fleet of limos.

"The cast felt pretty inferior. Even half a dozen bottles of bubbly shared between us would have been a nice gesture."

Sir Elton's spokesman doesn't think so. "They all get paid to be in the show, and he looks after them very well," I'm told.

"Anyway, if he gave them free tickets for the charity dinner, it wouldn't make much money, would it?"

* Jude Law loyally supported his fiancée Sienna Miller as she made her West End debut in As You Like It on Tuesday, but there is uncertainty about his own mooted return to the London stage.

Back in September, Law, pictured with Miller, told me that he was in negotiations to play Hamlet at the Young Vic later this year. Nine months later, work on the glamorous project appears to have fallen behind schedule.

Law greets questions about the whole thing with an uneasy pause. "Let's say it's still in discussion," he told Pandora at the first night party at the Mint Leaf restaurant. Pressed on details, he added: "I don't want to get into this."

The theatre denies the project has collapsed, but is equally elusive. "We haven't yet got any concrete plans to report," said a spokesman yesterday.

* Martha Kearney is said to be "devastated" at missing out on the political editor's job at the BBC, despite being the bookies' favourite for Andrew Marr's old post.

Friends are noisily rallying round the Newsnight stalwart. David Frost tells me she would have been "a very good choice", adding diplomatically: "But there were three good candidates and I suppose Nick Robinson was one."

Incidentally, Blue Robbo - as he was known during his days as a Young Conservative - only applied for the BBC post at the last minute, so the race to replace him as the political editor of ITV News is only just under way.

Insiders tell me Tom Bradby, Daisy Sampson and James Mates have thrown their hats into the ring, and are already "fighting like cats in the bag".

* The eco-socialite Zac Goldsmith - who deftly combines being son and heir to the late Sir Jimmy with editing The Ecologist - has just struck a landmark blow for female emancipation.

His magazine is championing the She-Pee, a cardboard device that allows women to use a urinal. They're paying for two compounds to be set up at this weekend's Glastonbury Festival in which punters can give them a test drive.

According to a spokesman, the project is in keeping with Goldsmith's green credentials. "At Glastonbury, lots of people end up peeing in the bushes, and it's very bad for the local ecology," I'm told.

"If women can use urinals, it'll drastically reduce queues for the ladies, so fewer people will need to pee on the fields."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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