Hancock's half out: BBC editor 'going to walk'

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The Independent Online

The BBC will today send letters to staff inviting volunteers for redundancy. At least 1,800 are for the chop.

I hear that number has already fallen to 1,799, with a pre-emptive offer to walk from the editor of Radio 4's The World at One, Colin Hancock.

Hancock, 42, has worked at the BBC for 19 years and will collect a bumper severance payout, if his offer is accepted.

Colleagues said that he has tired of the cloud hanging over him this summer: he has faced calls for his suspension from the National Union of Journalists amid allegations that he sexually harassed two female members of staff. Two broadcast assistants alleged that he sent them suggestive emails and made inappropriate comments.

The first part of an internal investigation found that there was no case to answer, and Hancock awaits the findings of the second part.

It was reported during staff discussions yesterday that Hancock had put himself up for redundancy even before the official offer from Beeb management.

"We don't want this to slip under the radar," said a peeved source.

Hancock was unavailable to talk last night, and a BBC spokeswoman declined to comment. Senior managers regarded him as a safe pair of hands and were surprised by the complaints. He was tipped for promotion.

Hancock follows Manchester United and England football teams around the globe, and enjoys the opera and playing golf. He would, at least, have more time to pursue these interests...

Slater tells Tamara to choo off from rehearsals

Reassuring for the rest of us that, despite his status as a Hollywood heartthrob, Christian Slater still gets the jitters that accompany a fledgling romance.

Slater, back in the West End starring in Swimming With Sharks, coyly barred his new belle Tamara Mellon, the founder of Jimmy Choo shoes, from the play's rehearsals and previews.

"This is the first time I've seen it as Christian wouldn't allow me to come and see him rehearse," Mellon told Pandora at the opening night. "But I loved it, I found it really gripping."

Slater has clearly been buoyed by the play's good reviews, and by spending time with the luxury cobbler, also 38, and worth a reported £99m. They have been caught smooching in various restaurants.

"I'll definitely be coming back to see the play," Mellon added. "I have been told I don't have a choice!"

Simon to loosen his belt

Strangled cats and karaoke singers on both sides of the Atlantic: rejoice. Simon Cowell has confirmed that he will quit judging television talent shows in two years.

"You can't do it forever," Cowell told Pandora in Marco Pierre White's Belvedere restaurant, at the launch of Michael Winner's book, The Fat Pig Diet.

"I'm tired. We've got a live [X Factor] show on Saturday and I've just come from filming next year's American Idol. There's three more series of that and then I'm going to stop.

"I'll stop in two years. You have to love it to do it, and I do, but that is long enough. It will be time to move on." He turns 50 in October 2009.

Will it be a clean break? One will, no doubt, still be able to spot Cowell's high waistband drifting about backstage...

Sunday worst

Clang! Cracked skulls at The Sunday Times, which missed its own exclusive on DNA pioneer James Watson. The Nobel Prize winner, 79, made his controversial comments about the relative intelligence of Africans and Westerners in the newspaper's magazine. Editors did not consider the remarks newsworthy, until the rest of the world's media (led by The Independent) reported them.

The Sunday Times Magazine editor Robin Morgan is away, leaving deputy Cathy Galvin in charge. But blame lies with the news operation: turns out a news article had been written, and then pulled at the last minute.

Incidentally, alongside the interview, the ST ran "Dr Watson's tips for success". Number two? "Be the first to tell a good story." Elementary.

Tony Blair, return to sender

Best to take a few precautions if you are a Prime Minister who has invaded Iraq and is now an envoy to the Middle East. Horrible, after all, to think about the sort of extremists and unwashed crazies who'd turn up on your doorstep if you told them where you worked, and the security "ishoos" this could throw up.

Since demitting Downing Street, Our Tone has set up The Office of Tony Blair. It wisely hides behind a Post Office Box Number. (60519 London, W2 7JU, since you ask.) MI5 should be happy. But say you really did want to find Our Dear Departed Leader, you could send him fan mail. Then, when you get a reply, you check out the franking on the envelope containing his letter: "If undelivered, return to [address in St James's]". Over to Inspector Knacker!

Email pandora@independent.co.uk