Howard lifts the lid on his Liverpool footballing freebie

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The Independent Online

* Michael Howard reckons this election is all about trust. So what are we to read into the finer details of his relationship with Liverpool Football Club?

* Michael Howard reckons this election is all about trust. So what are we to read into the finer details of his relationship with Liverpool Football Club?

In an effort to appeal to the common man, the Tory leader has been making much of his longstanding support for the (electorally crucial) city's highly successful club.

The tactic is about to backfire. For in an interview in this week's Time Out, Howard owns up to receiving free tickets to home games at Anfield, where he's often seen in the directors' box.

Fellow fans won't be impressed by the fact that he isn't paying his dues. And neither will MPs, because Howard's entry in the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests makes no mention of his freebie tickets.

With other MPs declaring all their sporting hospitality, the Tory leader's failure to mention Liverpool FC, where he is pictured left, appears to put him in breach of the strict rules governing MPs' conduct.

The club said yesterday that they had a longstanding arrangement with Howard. "He isn't a season ticket holder," said a spokesman. "He occasionally attends matches with his wife as our guest. He'll contact the club and say he'd like to come along. Usually he'll write to the club secretary."

Tory sources claimed the failure to register was an "oversight". Official spokesmen, meanwhile, refused to comment.

* MARIE HELVIN, who lays claim to being the original supermodel, is concerned by channel Five's recent foray into the industry.

The veteran clothes-horse takes a keen interest in the debate surrounding Make Me A Supermodel , a reality TV competition that finished on Monday.

"I've been watching the show on TV," she tells me. "I think the girls are great. The ones in the later stages have great potential, and could all make it. But I don't know if it portrays the industry very well.

"Of course, there's anorexia and arguments in the modelling industry; they're part of life. But that's not what it's all about, and the show made it look like it is. I don't know if that's good for the industry."

As to her future plans, Helvin is to front a reality TV show for Channel 4. "It's nothing like the other one," she explains, hastily.

* WHO'D HAVE thought John Simpson was recently a tax exile? The BBC's magisterial world affairs editor turns out to have benefited from Ireland's generous tax exemption scheme for artists.

Documents released under the Irish Freedom of Information Act show that Simpson claimed tax relief for his earnings from three books written between 1998 and 2001.

Despite having nary a Celtic bone in his body, Simpson wrote the books at his property in Dalkey, near Dublin, so was able to join several multimillionaires on the scheme.

Embarrassed to be giving tax breaks to wealthy celebrities, the Irish government is reviewing its tax policy. Says Simpson: "I was resident there for seven years, but now I'm back."

* TONY BENN dislikes much about New Labour, not least its relentless control-freakery. So I wonder how fondly he regards his second son, Hilary.

On Tuesday, Benn celebrated his 80th birthday with a drinks party at the Foreign Press Association. Family and friends were there in force, but Hilary only paid a fleeting visit.

"Not long after Hilary turned up, his pager went off, ordering him to return to Westminster," reports a guest. "He fairly sprinted down the stairs and out the door, shouting 'did you page me?' into his mobile phone."

Less ambitious MPs would be tempted to stay behind; not our International Development Secretary!

* Alan Yentob admits to a pang of jealousy at last month's revelation - seen here and elsewhere - that his friend Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general, once sank his teeth into a colleague.

"When it appeared in the press, that was the first time I'd heard about Mark biting people," he tells me. "I was rather jealous of all the publicity: he was always meant to be the quiet, sensible one around the place."

Yentob, the Beeb's creative director, who was speaking at Spitting Image creator Roger Law's new exhibition at the Fine Art Society, is no shrinking violet.

He denies a taste for flesh, but admits to a thirst for publicity. "I wouldn't sink my teeth into someone. That would be derivative. I'm going to have to think of another way to get myself that sort of coverage."