Is 'Lord Prezza' set to soften the blow to Balls?

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The Independent Online

* It seems that Gordon Brown is, as expected, intervening behind the scenes in the saga to find a seat for his best buddy, protégé and former bean counter at the Treasury, Ed Balls (whose Normanton constituency in Yorkshire has been abolished).

Brown is said to have had a word in the ear of John Prescott, outgoing Deputy Prime Minister (left), about whether or not he intends to stand again in Hull East - 50 miles from Balls's soon-to-be-ex-locale.

In August, Pandora reported that Balls's older neighbouring MPs had issued a polite "sod off" when asked if they may step aside. Balls would be a heavyweight puncher in a Brown cabinet and he will get any help he needs to find a new home close to his wife, Yvette Cooper, another Yorkshire MP (for Pontefract and Castleford).

"Gordon - and it is rumoured even Tony - have spoken to John about Ed Balls's situation," says my man in Westminster. "John knows there's a seat in the Lords for him if he wants it. He might go, if Gordon Brown reforms the Lords with elected peers, as planned."

Prezza's spokeswoman declined to comment on his future, saying: "John's position is always that he talks to the party first about this."

The Balls camp acknowledged there were "a lot of rumours flying around", and said their man is "continuing to talk to local party members about the next step". Brown's advisor said the story was "definitely not true in any way".

As ever in politics, time settles the sediment.

* They first met on Manchester's fictional Chatsworth estate as the stars of television series Shameless, playing a middle-class car thief and the feisty daughter of a drunken layabout.

James McAvoy and Anne-Marie Duff have now, finally, got hitched. "We married three weeks ago when I got back from Toronto [Film Festival]," says McAvoy, at the gala opening of the London Film Festival.

"I can't tell you where - it's a place people go to marry quietly where you won't be recognised." (Eastbourne?)

He adds: "I'm not telling you where the honeymoon is! I'm not mad." He then seized a handful of chocolate brownies "to give to my beautiful wife", who was waving a dazzling rock.

I hope "Hollywood's hottest Scotsman" enjoys the momentary tranquillity: he plays Keira Knightley's lover in Atonement, which premieres in December next year or early 2008.

* Baz Bamigboye enjoys unparalleled status among Fleet Street's gossip hacks - his stories, contacts book and prodigious expenses account all envied by rivals.

An amiable chap, he carries with him a certain gravitas - demonstrated at Wednesday night's premiere of The Last King of Scotland, the acclaimed new film about the murderous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. As Bamigboye walked the red carpet, fans mistook him for the star of the movie, Forest Whitaker.

"I was asked to pose for pictures," he explains, "four times. Forest Whitaker and I are black, but apart from that don't look anything like one another. Perhaps I have the smaller waist at the moment."

Baz adds: "People used to mistake me for Lenny Henry. Or it was 'Denzel, Denzel'. Maybe I should go for a screen test."

* David Davies, the MP for Monmouth, has been energetically patrolling South Wales, recently joining his local constabulary on their beat as part of the parliamentary police scheme.

One morning, acting on a tip-off, Davies and several trusty bobbies sped to investigate reports of illegal immigrants working on a farm.

At the first sight of flashing blue lights, the workers made a dash for it. Several of our helmeted members struggled to keep up. Not the sprightly Davies, however, who halted one immigrant by deploying a flying rugby tackle.

Admirable enthusiasm, perhaps, but alarmed senior officers (in Hollywood cop movie fashion) moved him to counting pencils behind a desk. "Best not to comment," says Davies.

* A cracking row has kicked off between residents of North Yorkshire and the local police force. A Freedom of Information request pursued by local hacks discovered that the Chief Constable, Della Cannings, has spent a whopping £28,000 of public dosh on a new en suite shower for her office.

Since you ask, that's £15,000 plumbing, £4,000 electrics, £900 flooring, £900 ceilings, £900 painting, £1,200 furniture and £5,500 building work. It is as yet unclear how this will help lift detection rates. Perhaps the investigation she has ordered into spending by her own office will enlighten us.

An internal e-mail from Ms Cannings says: "I didn't get involved very much except seeing proposals and choosing carpet colour etc..."

Scarlet, I hope, to match the colour of her cheeks.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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