Ex-minister Twigg lands a swish new job - at Tony's think tank

Stephen Twigg the junior minister who provided Michael Howard with his most high profile "scalp" of the last election, has just landed a swanky, well-paid job as Director of the Foreign Policy Centre.

Staff at the FPC, a Blairite think-tank, were told about the appointment yesterday morning, but details were last night kept under wraps in an effort to prevent his appointment becoming public until a formal unveiling next week.

Twigg's new job may attract unfavourable comment. The FPC - established in 1998 by the then foreign secretary Robin Cook - has Tony Blair as a patron and draws much money from work on Gov-ernment-funded projects.

Not least will be accusa-tions of "jobs for the boys", since (despite its close ties to Her Majesty's Government) the FPC operates as a private limited company, and so is able to make appointments from behind closed doors.

Yesterday, the organisation was curiously reluctant to embrace its new leader. "We don't particularly want to say much about this," I was told. "We've sent Stephen a text message, but don't know how he'll want to announce it."

Neither do we. But Twigg always arrives in exciting circumstances: in 1990, he became the first gay president of the NUS, and in the 1997 election (famously) booted Michael Portillo out of Enfield Southgate.

* Here's a tale to send ripples through Downing Street. Carole Caplin has joined her chum Cherie Blair on the after-dinner speaking circuit.

The Jewish charity Norwood has e-mailed supporters with the joyous news that "Carole Caplin invites you to lunch" on 20 September.

Although Caplin isn't being paid, guests (whose grub costs £35) will be invited to buy signed copies of her book, LifeSmart.

They've also been helpfully reminded of the health guru's links to No 10.

"In the volatile world of media and celebrity, Carole has been able to forge a very successful career in the health and fitness industry," reads the invite.

"She has built up an impressive list of clients including Cherie Blair. Carole is a truly inspirational person and we are thrilled she's agreed to be our speaker."

Yesterday, Norwood said the bash would include a Q&A session. Caplin - whose mother is Jewish - agreed to take part after being "approached through a mutual contact".

* After the Lily Cole affair, more noises off concerning the Natural History Museum's new Diamonds exhibition.

This month, the pressure group Survival International picketed the exhibition's glitzy opening in protest at its sponsor, De Beers. They are opposed to the diamond company's mining practices in Botswana.

On the front line was the supermodel Lily Cole who has appeared in recent adverts for the jewellery firm.

She subsequently released a statement on the matter. Although she (pointedly) didn't criticise De Beers - or promise not to work for them again - it said she was now "aware" of Survival's position.

Yesterday, a further development. The museum, which banned anti-mining material from its exhibition, added a section to its internet site on the "ethics" of the diamond trade - with a link to Survival's home page.

* Prince Charles has some nasty bedtime reading on its way. Next Thursday, MPs publish advice on how his Duchy of Cornwall estate should be run.

A draft of the 19-page document, to be published by the Commons' Public Accounts Committee, was yesterday seen by Pandora. And jolly fruity it is, too.

Criticisms of the Prince begin with the Tory MP Edward Leigh's introduction: "Our work has revealed obscurities and potential conflicts of interest..."

Among other things, Charles is ordered (in future) to get property valued by a third party before selling it to pet courtiers.

That follows a minor scandal. In February, I disclosed that he'd quietly sold a four-bedroom London home to his controversial aide Michael Fawcett for £490,000 - a figure agents said was below market value.

* It's D-Day for Jim Knight, the ambitious Rural Affairs minister who was ordered to attend today's CLA Game Fair at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.

As I recently revealed, Knight will be New Labour's first minister to attend the annual country sports jamboree since his party banned hunting. Tweedy pressure groups - which laid into Knight's predecessors Ben Bradshaw and Alun Michael at previous Game Fairs - plan to welcome him with a "spectacular".

Knight is doing his best to win them round, though, and last week held a press conference for the sporting media. To the surprise of many, he announced that he'd been pheasant shooting in his Dorset constituency in February, and had rather enjoyed it.

Not all were so sure. "A glance at Knight's website does not suggest he brings much, if any, knowledge of countryside matters to his job," read Country Life's editorial yesterday.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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