Harman rallies the troops for her 'lilac revolution'

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The Independent Online

* Harriet Harman is not without critics in her campaign to replace John Prescott as Deputy PM.

Tony Blair's old mucker, the former health secretary Alan Milburn, seemed unenthusiastic when I overheard him at a drinks reception in September.

"Don't give me all that crap about the feminist vote, she's fucking hopeless," Milburn told two fellow party-goers. "If she [HH] is honest she should campaign on the 'I'm fucking useless vote'."

Nevertheless, Harman topped a poll of voters asked who they want after Prezza. I hear she is holding a campaign launch party for Labour MPs and wimmin's groups in the Commons on Monday 29 January.

"With Gordon as leader, I am the person as deputy leader that would make people vote for the Labour Party," she tells Pandora.

Harman beats the girly drum for longer maternity leave, flexi-time work and better childcare. "My website is lilac and written in italics," she says. "It looks more like chick lit than a political website. That's intentional."

She adds: "There's a 'Talk to me about...' section. The first one is men who use prostitutes. Should we have the Swedish system, where it's illegal for men to buy sex?"

Milburn seems reluctant to say whether or not he will be at Harriet's party.

"I think you'll find that Alan has not commented on Harriet Harman or got involved," insists his charming assistant. "He was misquoted in The Independent."

Not so. I was next to him at the time. So I had to gently disabuse the young lady in his office of this notion.

Another vote for Harman?

* Olivia Newton-John wiggling her pert bottom in a pair of constricted, shiny black trousers remains a highlight of the school curriculum to this day.

Newton-John has agreed a return to Grease: she will appear on the US talent show, You're The One That I Want, this Sunday. Produced and judged by British theatre don David Ian, it will select actors for a new stage production of the musical.

But her appearance will raise eyebrows in La-La Land - she has just filed a lawsuit there against the publishers of the Grease soundtrack. She claims to be owed around half a million big ones in unpaid royalties.

"I can't comment as I don't know enough about the case," says Ian from his LA bolthole. "I know that Olivia feels very strongly about Grease and is looking forward to coming on the show."

Newton-John claims the aforementioned spray-on kecks still fit. We shall see!

* As an 18-stone, beer-guzzling rugby league fanatic, Johnny Vegas is considered by some to be your archetypal Union Jack-flying lager lout.

Disturbing, then, to learn that the comedian has gone all "continental" on us.

While filming the new ITV series Benidorm - Vegas plays a Lancashire pub quiz champion on holiday in the Costa Blanca with his mother - he claims to have developed a taste for the Spanish high life. Asked his favourite drink, he confesses to ditching the trademark pint in favour of an exotic tipple.

"Sangria!" he proclaims. "It comes in a jug with fruit - and it's important to include solids in your diet."

He adds that his highlight from the shoot was "wearing socks under my sandals".

Please stand for the national anthem.

* For a lady who has spent much of her acting career staring into dissected cadavers, and whose willingness to disrobe allegedly inspired the quip, "she's always prepared to keep her clothes on if the part demands it", Helen Mirren should have a strong stomach.

Not so. She refused to eat or drink at the Golden Globes this week, despite winning Best Actress for The Queen.

"You're too nervous and excited and insecure," she says. "And you don't want beans in your teeth.

"I'm too scared to drink and then make a tit of myself.

"Some of the award shows, there is alcohol on the table, there's wine and things. You have one afterwards and drown your sorrows usually."

It's the Oscars soon. Bottoms-up!

* After the disturbing news that a cultural beanfest in the wilds of Jordan had to be moved to save Germaine Greer and Martin Amis from al-Qa'ida (Christmas Pandora), I'm pleased to hear that the feminist, a former contestant on Celebrity Big Brother, can instead relax at a media junket in India, where there has been... rioting over Celebrity Big Brother.

The second India International Literature and Media Festival proudly announced yesterday that its "guest of honour country" will be none other than Britain. Impeccable timing! Although Jade Goody appears not to have been invited.

While we're on the subject, Pandora's favourite embassy mag, India DiGEST, remarks that the appearance of Bollywood's Shilpa Shetty on CBB "is guaranteed to be a water-cooler talking point up and down the land". No kidding! Perhaps they could use the water to extinguish the burning effigies of Channel 4 execs.