Ming's credentials not so much green as metallic blue

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The Independent Online

Should Sir Menzies Campbell become the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, will he be keeping the party's smokeless flame burning and personally embracing green causes? Probably not.

Mr Campbell is the proud owner of a G Reg, model V12, 5.3 litre Jaguar XJ-S - "a thirsty and unreliable car", according to my man in the leather gloves.

He was recently seen driving it around Parliament Square, and it is a fetching shade of metallic blue. And I am told he has no intention of trading it in for a new green image.

"He also has a VW Passat," says a Liberal Democrat spokesman. "He's had the Jaguar for a long time and he looks after it and enjoys driving it. As far as I know he is not planning to go down the David Cameron 'green' route and give it up."

Campbell's passion for vintage motoring sits uneasily with the party's commitment to the environment. Charles Kennedy pledged as recently as 19 December: "Let no one be in any doubt - the Liberal Democrats are not about to cede our emphatic, sincere and long-standing green credentials."

But I can put one rumour to rest: Menzies Campbell has only ever owned the one Jag.

"The comment in Paddy Ashdown's diaries, that Ming had two Jags and might join a four-Jag coalition with John Prescott and Labour, were just Paddy's idea of a joke," says an insider.

* A clean sweep for JK Rowling in her New Year's Resolutions. The Harry Potter authoress, and demi-billionairess, has promised finally to tidy up her study.

Rowling started writing her wizard novels in an Edinburgh café, but with the acquisition of a stable abode things have evidently been getting out of hand.

Under resolutions on her website, she writes "1. Muck out my study. My study is easily the messiest room in the house, and probably our street; I won't say in the whole of Edinburgh because there must be a squat somewhere that's worse. Frankly I shudder to think what I will find when I finally reach the bottom of all these teetering piles of garbage."

One wonders whether a woman with £500m in the bank couldn't perhaps afford a cleaner. An eBay auction of her jottings would probably cover the cost.

David Cameron, meanwhile, is reported to be doing well in his own NYR: giving up smoking. Flunkies reports that his drawers are overflowing with nicotine patches. No stains on him, then.

* Following the untimely death of Tony Banks, mystery surrounds the whereabouts of a tell-all book he was writing.

Three years ago, the former Sports Minister was smarting over Manchester United's refusal to help his 2006 World Cup bid. He told Pandora: "The book I hope to produce will tell the truth about Manchester United, and a few other things, too."

Is a red-hot manuscript waiting to hit the press? His office did not answer yesterday, and two leading political publishers denied all knowledge.

Meanwhile, The Wit and Wisdom of Tony Banks is still available. Its author, Iain Dale, tells me: "There are still plenty of copies remaining. It didn't trouble the bestseller charts."

It did, however, trouble Mr Banks. When Pandora enquired if he had read it, a nervous aide told us: "It will make him mad if I ask him. He will have no comment. He's having a pretty stressful time at the moment."

* In its bear-hug embrace of modernity and free speech, The Guardian recently launched its "organ grinder" blog, to allow readers to comment on the issues of the day. No good deed goes unpunished. Yesterday, readers flocked to the website to criticise the redesign and down-sizing of The Guardian's sister paper, The Observer, the vast majority in stinging tones.

When one contributor wondered if the blog was meant for readers to tell The Observer "how wonderful we are", the organiser of the blog was moved to intervene.

"We are just looking for readers' honest opinions, and the internet gives us that instant capability," came the hurt reply. Cue an avalanche of disgruntled readers with axes, sorry, organs, to grind.

"Jesus wept would be my overall view," is one typical response. Another: "Yesterday's Observer told me it was 'exciting'. I'll be the judge of that, thanks."

* I am sorry to report that Rosie Boycott, the former editor of The Independent and Spare Rib, is suffering from a bereavement. Her prize pig, the Empress of Blandings, died in a freak accident on Christmas Eve.

"She suffocated to death because one of the other pigs sat on her," she says. "It's awful, but every time I tell someone they laugh." Boycott, who also keeps 250 chickens and two acres of vegetables at her Somerset home, explains: "It happened in the night, and we woke up to find her dead. Now there are only 13 left."

Luckily, one of the porkers is expecting in the spring, and Boycott is planning to turn midwife. "I adore them, so I'll be there with the gloves," she says.

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