Is it just me, or are politicians getting younger all the time?

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The Independent Online

* The Liberal Democrat Party is clearly taking the threat posed by the youthful Conservative leader David Cameron very seriously indeed.

But whereas the Tories are capitalising on their new leader's youth appeal by signing up the headline-prone ageing rock star Bob Geldof as an "advisor", the Lib Dems are looking to scoop the youth vote by electing the youngest-ever local party president in British history.

A 12-year-old boy by the name of Oliver Smith was elected unanimously by the Amber Valley Liberal Democrats at their recent Annual General Meeting, and will serve in office for a year from 1 January. The budding politician replaces Keith Falconbridger, who is believed to be in his mid-fifties, and who will become Chairman of the local party instead.

"Ollie and I talked about this at length before the meeting," his mother, Lib Dem Councillor Kate Smith, tells me. "He is going to turn 13 at the end of February, so this seemed the sensible time to go for it - before he begins his GCSEs with all the extra work that will entail."

Smith's main campaigning issues are, understandably, connected to education. He is vehemently opposed to university fees, and keen to look at ways of reforming school education.

"He is also very keen to get Blair and Brown out of office," adds his mother. "But we believe that David Cameron is just a flash in the pan."

* Who'd have thought that of all the parts of Madonna's body that might end up causing a public row, her eyelashes would have come up trumps.

The 47-year-old singer appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman in America in October, sporting a very splendid set of lash extensions made - believe it or not - of mink and diamonds and reportedly worth over £5,000.

According to their designer, Sol Rafael, Madge has held on to the creations ever since, despite his belief that they were only on loan to her.

"Sol was drafted in by Madonna's stylist, but didn't realise that she planned to keep the lashes after the show," I am told.

"He is flattered, of course, that someone with as large a wardrobe as Madonna wants to add his designs to it, but he feels that he deserves some recognition, at least."

When Pandora contacted Madonna's spokesperson yesterday, she was unable to comment on the row.

* At last, Sir Cliff Richard has broken his silence on why he is prepared to give the Prime Minister free holidays in the Caribbean.

"I never charge any of my friends when they come," he says.

"They donate money to a charity instead, but I don't see why they should have to do that either. I like [Tony] as a person. I've found him very easy to be with. I've never ever talked politics with him. We've talked about spiritual things.

"He likes talking about rock and roll, and what I'm doing."

Flattery will get you to the Bahamas, at least.

* The Irish actress Geraldine Hughes has been enjoying considerable success in the United States with her one-woman show about growing up in sectarian Ireland, called Belfast Blues.

It's rather a departure from this, then, that sees Hughes cast opposite Sylvester Stallone as the love interest in Rocky Balboa, the sixth and final film in his boxing series.

"She's done well on stage and particularly on Broadway, but if you want to make it as an actor, you need to conquer Hollywood," says a friend of Hughes. "And, let's be honest, it's pretty easy to look good opposite Stallone these days."

Intriguingly, Sly's own son, Sage Stallone, will not be reprising his role as Rocky's son for the film.

* The environment looks set to play an ever-increasing role in national politics. It's good to hear, therefore, that the weather presenter Sian Lloyd - who is soon to marry the Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik - takes a keen interest in recycling.

"I grumbled about recycling in London because the apartment I live in is in a particularly awkward place for recycling," she tells Pandora. "So I find it difficult to make sure my paper and bottles go to the right places. I now do the slightly crazy thing of putting all my bottles in the boot of the car and dropping them off at the recycling depot in Montgomeryshire."

Not entirely overlooking the pesky fact of car exhaust pollution, she adds:

"I realise there is an irony in there somewhere."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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