'Mail on Sunday' drops review that criticises PCC's Meyer

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The Independent Online

The memoirs of the former ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, have caused quite a stir in government circles, but they also offer an interesting insight into the workings of the press.

The satirist Craig Brown was asked by the Mail on Sunday to write a review of Meyer's book, DC Confidential, which has been serliased in its daily sister publication. The paper planned to delight its readers with a confident appreciation of the book, which describes Jack Straw as weak and John Prescott as hopeless.

Brown, however, can't stand Meyer, and his review was suitably damning. The Mail on Sunday immediately decided not to print the article, for fear of offending Meyer, who is Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission.

Although Brown was unwilling to discuss the matter yesterday, a recent appearance on Radio 5 Live, to promote his book, 1966 and all that, suggests that his antipathy to the former diplomat remains intact.

"I told the listeners that it's not a good book. In fact, I indulged in something of a stream-of-consciousness outburst against it," he tells me. "I then left the studio, and walked straight into Christopher Meyer in the ante-room. He was the next guest due on the show."

* There are some places that you'd be reluctant to encounter even your favourite television stars. Such a place is, Pandora would warrant, the doctor's surgery while undergoing in vitro fertilisation treatment.

However, several prospective parents had the pleasure of the housewife's heartthrob actor Trevor Eve, sitting in on their IVF sessions.

Eve - still best known for playing the eponymous detective Shoestring in the 1970s - has just finished filming The Family Man, a series for BBC1 in which he plays a fertility doctor helping couples to conceive. The drama is coming out in February and to prepare for it, Eve was granted access to watch IVF in action.

"It was a great experience," he tells me at the opening night of the Blue Man Group's West End show. "It really helped me to understand the experience and lent an air of authority and expertise to the show. And that is one of the great things about being an actor: all the different experiences one can have, and different worlds we get to glimpse".

* Is Kate Hoey embarrassed by her job as Chairman of the Countryside Alliance? The appointment of a Labour MP and former sports minister looked like something of a PR coup for the tweedy association when it was announced in the summer, but it hasn't quite turned out to be the success it could have been.

Last week, the gun-maker Purdey held its annual conservation awards, presented by Miss Hoey. However, Pandora - in common with all other journalists attending the function - was forbidden to approach the frizzy MP for a chat.

"It's been made clear that other than her speech, Kate's off limits for this evening," explained an organiser. While an official spokesman for the Countryside Alliance denied that they'd issued the order, it doesn't exactly make it look like she's a keen cheerleader for their cause.

* As the "City Slicker" media trial rumbles on with James Hipwell facing charges of illicit trading when he worked as a tipster at the Mirror, his former editor, Piers Morgan, has been in touch with Pandora to tell me he's sunning himself on the pure white beaches of Dubai. By chance, Hipwell's former colleague, Anil Bhoyrul - who is not standing trial - is out there too, at work on a new business newspaper.

"It's a pleasure to be reacquainted," Morgan tells me, speaking from a deckchair. "Anil is making me a cup of tea and he was always good at that. We've been saying that it's just a personal tragedy for James that he is not out here with us."

A sentiment with which Hipwell will no doubt agree. He faces several years in prison, should he be found guilty.

* Never let it be said that Ken Livingstone doesn't keep up with the times. The Mayor of London has presented his proposed budget for the next year to members of the Greater London Assembly, and - just as the Metropolitan Police have been told that their request for an 11.2 per cent budgetary increase isn't acceptable - he's allotted £70,000 to "the abolition of slavery".

Although this is undoubtedly a worthy cause, it's one that hasn't been at the forefront of politics, local or national, for some two centuries.

"Didn't we pass the abolition of slavery act in 1807?" asks a Tory spokesman. "I have to wonder whether this is a sensible use of tax- payers' money".

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