It's a hat-trick for 'floating' politician Sir Digby Jones

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The Independent Online

There is an interesting footnote to the unexpected inclusion of Sir Digby Jones in Gordon Brown's all-inclusive "government of talents".

No sooner had the former head of the CBI – now Lord Jones of Birmingham – become Mr Brown's Minister for Trade and Investment than it was revealed that he had held secret talks about joining Michael Howard's Tories as a Tory Peer.

Now, completing a hat-trick of sorts, it emerges that Lord Jones also made a similar approach to Menzies Campbell and the Liberal Democrats not very long before the Prime Minister made his surprise appointment.

"He came looking for a way in and left us in no doubt about where his loyalties lay," says a well-placed Lib Dem source. "We were definitely interested and were all ready to go with the idea, so you can imagine our surprise when Gordon Brown then unveils him as part of his government. In politics, we often refer to the floating voter – now I suppose we live in the age of the floating politician."

No one from Jones's office was available to comment on the matter, but it seems that he has now managed to upset all three of the major parties. His new comrades among New Labour are also said to be unhappy. Although Jones has confirmed that he will support government policies and take the party whip in the House of Lords, he still resolutely refuses to become a card-carrying member of the Labour Party. Where might he turn up next, I wonder?

Who could mistake Stewart for Shatner?

As a classically trained Shakespearean actor, Patrick Stewart is deserving of some considerable respect among his acting peers.

But while sitting in the audience during a recent performance of I am Shakespeare at the Chichester theatre, the former Star Trek star was subjected to a cheeky dig from one of the actors, Sean Foley.

After Stewart joined in on the audience participation at the end of the show, Foley grandly announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to introduce William Shatner," to much hooting and cackling among the packed crowd.

Says one audience member: "Patrick actually thought it was rather funny and returned the banter.

"Jolly sporting of him too. Shatner may have been his predecessor in Star Trek, but he likes to think there's a fair amount of daylight between his talent and Shatner's."

Kelly's no saleswoman

Kelly Hoppen is rarely one to miss a beat when it comes to matters of self-promotion.

"My last book sold 180,000 copies and was the biggest-selling interiors book ever," the frizzy-haired interior designer proudly told me at the glitzy launch of her latest book Home – From Concept to Reality. "I don't know who the 180,000 were, but somebody's buying them."

Still, if her current book is to sell half as well, then Hoppen might have spent more time chivvying her guests, who turned up to the glitzy bash at Asprey, into buying a copy.

Moaned one chap manning the stall: "We've sold about 11 all night – Kelly was supposed to make a speech about it, but clearly she's got more important things to do."

Bye, Ming

The stink surrounding Northern Rock doesn't just smell whiffy for the company's investors. It's also causing headaches for the Liberal Democrats.

Last Friday evening, Newsnight was due to carry a lengthy interview with the party leader, Ming Campbell. But once the drama surrounding the troubled bank began to kick off, the show's producers decided to bump Ming from the schedule and save him for tonight.

"It's frustrating as we would have much rather had it on Friday," says a Lib Dem insider. "What with party conference going on, we were expecting a fairly decent airing this week anyway."

Paddington goes to Hollywood

There are fears that Paddington Bear has joined the growing ranks of national treasures which are sold down the river in the sinful name of commercialisation.

Last week, an advert revealed that Michael Bond's loveable creation had cashed in his trademark marmalade sandwiches in exchange for Marmite ones and a bit of crisp, hard currency. Two days later, it was announced he was to be turned into a feature film made by the Hollywood studios Warner Brothers.

Has some profiteer now got his hands stuffed in Paddington's duffle coat pockets?

"Not at all, we still own the rights to Paddington, it's just that there seems to have been a surge of interest in him because it's his 50th anniversary approaching," insists Bond's daughter Karen Jankel. "We really weren't expecting Warner Brothers to announce the film so soon after the Marmite campaign."

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