Did Lulu give Orange the green light?

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The BBC's leading current affairs programme, Newsnight, has decided to pull the plug on a long-running investigation into Britain's most colourful Asian businessmen, the billionaire Hinduja brothers.

After several months of legal negotiations, editor Peter Barron has canned a report by the investigative comedian Mark Thomas, right, in which he mounted a "sting" operation to catch the Hindujas, left, allegedly breaking an embargo to sell military vehicles to Sudan.

Despite being twice scheduled for broadcast - in mid-October, and again last week - Thomas's report was twice dropped, once just hours before it was due to be shown, thanks to submissions to the BBC by the Hinduja family's lawyers.

They claimed entrapment, and said the vehicles in question were not armour- plated, and therefore not of military specification.

"The Mark Thomas piece is never going out," said the BBC last night. "It's a decision we have come to because, after legal changes, it got too technical to be of interest to our viewers."

Thomas wouldn't comment yesterday, though friends tell me he won't be silenced for long.

"Mark feels the BBC has been leant on," I'm told. "He elaborates on the affair in his stage show and is looking at other ways to broadcast the story."

The singer Lulu, 57, has reopened speculation over the exact nature of her relationship with the former Take That singer, Jason Orange.

In tonight's ITV documentary Take That... The Final Report, the Glaswegian beauty recalls her collaboration with Orange on the 1993 single "Relight My Fire".

At the time, the couple dismissed reports of a fling as "poppycock". Now they're not so sure.

Orange: "We had a lovely, special relationship... I felt very close to Lulu [left] for a period."

Lulu: "He was so handsome, he had a lot of energy, and he worked really hard on stage."

Orange: "Did I give her one? (Laughs). Don't remember. If I did, I don't remember. I'm a gentleman."

Lulu: (Laughs).

Orange: "If Lulu says I gave her one and she says I was great, then that's fine by me."

Lulu: "I'm not going to answer that, and that's my prerogative."

Read into that what you will.

* Oddie flies off the handle...

Want to annoy Bill Oddie? Try asking Britain's foremost celebrity "twitcher" about the avian flu epidemic that's been sweeping through Europe.

Pandora did. "Bird flu?" he replied. "Why do people always ask my opinion on that? You wouldn't ask me if it was just flu. Just because it's got the word bird in it, people think I must know about it. Well, I don't!"

Oddie, right, who was speaking at the launch of David Attenborough's new series Life in the Undergrowth, subsequently explained his frustration.

"I don't know why people continue to associate me with birds. I made a few programmes about them, but I'd like to think I do insects and wildlife as well.

"In fact, in the last series of Springwatch, Kate [Humble, his co-presenter] did most of the bird feeding because I just couldn't bear to do it any more."

* Funny man

For a literary heavyweight, Paul Theroux turns out to have a surprisingly lavatorial sense of humour.

His son, the deadpan TV interviewer Louis, has taken part in a festive survey for Waterstone's bookshop in which he discloses what books he'll be buying as Christmas gifts for his friends and family.

"I'm going to get a copy of Port Out, Starboard Home by Michael Quinion for my dad," he says. "Last year, I got him Viz magazine's hardback, Roger's Profanisaurus, which he absolutely loved."

The Profanisaurus is the adult comic's dictionary of Anglo-Saxon swear words, and acquaints readers with such unusual terms as "Dutch Blindfold" and "Banjo Cleaner."

No doubt it was of great use to US-born Theroux Snr.

* Trousergate: the plot thickens

Only a fool would call Sir Christopher Meyer a liar - he is, after all, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission - but there is evidence of at least one significant "mistake" in his memoirs.

In the controversial tome, our former US ambassador claims that Tony Blair had struggled to relax on his first visit with George Bush to Camp David because of his "ball-crushingly tight dark blue corduroys".

Nothing could be further from the truth. "I was on that trip and also noticed Blair's trousers, but he absolutely wasn't wearing cords," says one noted foreign correspondent.

"I was sitting six feet away, and they were brand new dark jeans. Either Meyer is short-sighted, or he's told a deliberate fib to make the story funnier. However, the 'ball-crushingly tight' bit is perfectly true."