MP's awkward questions as Carla misses out on Vatican job

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The failure of the formidable socialite Carla Powell to be appointed Britain's next ambassador to the Vatican has certainly opened a can of worms.

Last week, it was announced that Francis Campbell, a former aide to Tony Blair, will become our new envoy to the Holy See. He's the first Roman Catholic to land the job in more than 400 years.

Now the Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay has tabled a series of questions about the appointment, making ominous noises about Campbell's background (he holds dual British and Irish nationality) and criticising the way he got the job.

As this column first revealed, the Foreign Office took the unprecedented step of both outsourcing the recruitment process and advertising the post in the national press.

They received around 120 applications, and interviewed a dozen candidates, including Powell in both English and Italian.

Although there is no suggestion that Ms Powell is behind Mackinlay's subsequent interest in the affair, sources at the Foreign Office are mystified at his line of questioning.

"It seems strange to raise Campbell's Roman Catholic background," I'm told. "You wouldn't do it if he was black, say. Yes, he's got dual nationality, but he was born and bred in Ulster and is a British citizen."

Mackinlay denies any vendetta against Campbell, saying he merely intends to criticise the way the appointment was made: "I can't help feeling it's been downgraded by being advertised in this way."

* The glamour model Jordan isn't exactly your archetypal literary heavyweight, so it's interesting to learn that she's about to "rebrand" herself as a novelist.

Following a lengthy tug of war, Britain's largest publisher, Random House, has "poached" her from John Blake, the independent publisher responsible for her bestselling memoir Being Jordan.

She has signed a "high six-figure" contract to produce an updated autobiography followed by a debut novel. And apparently, it won't even be ghosted.

It's a cruel blow for Blake, who signed Jordan when her career was going through a rocky patch a few years back, but he insists there's no hard feelings.

"We're a small publisher who are very good at making people very successful, but sometimes lose out to big corporations who have more money," says Blake.

"We love Jordan to bits, though. We're all friends and wish her well. I suppose it's the sincerest form of flattery that someone else is trying to copy what we did."

* There is a minor outbreak of "handbags" between two of Britain's greatest stand-up comedians, Lee Evans and Eddie Izzard.

At the weekend, Evans was admitted to the Guinness World Records for performing before a crowd of 10,108 - "the biggest arena audience of all time".

Izzard smells fish. In an official statement yesterday, his agent claimed that audiences of more than 13,000 paid to see their man's "Sexie" tour last year.

"I was there during Sexie, and saw how hard Eddie worked and the risks he took," it read. "For that reason, please, whilst quite rightly applauding Lee, let us not take away from Eddie's achievements.

"He was, after all, brave enough to be the first solo stand-up comedian to play arenas, making it possible for others to follow in his footsteps." Back in your box, Evans!

* Lord Kinnock's years in the driver's carriage of the European Union's clattering gravy train are about to return to haunt him.

In the New Year, the former Labour leader will be named in an unfair dismissal case brought by the European Commission's former accountant, Marta Andreasen.

She was unceremoniously sacked after refusing to OK the commission's accounts in 2002. "The court has to set up a hearing, and this should now be happening in the first quarter of 2006," she tells me.

"It will be a public hearing, and will take place in Luxembourg. I will be there with my lawyers, and the European Commission will be represented by theirs. Kinnock is an essential part of the case, because he took the original decision to suspend me."

* More choppy water ahead for Jeremy Clarkson, following his recent tussles with left-leaning environmentalists and MPs. Fleet Street scandal-monger Jane Kelly is writing an unauthorised biography of the tubby Top Gear presenter. It's expected to explore his close friendships with the Duchess of York and the TV producer Elaine Bedel.

"I tried to get Clarkson to assist, but he refused," Kelly tells me. "His wife asked me what kind of book mine will be. I said a psychological profile; she said he doesn't do self-analysis at all, because he sees everything in black and white."

Either way, it should be worth a read: in her last book, Kelly claimed that "bad boy" Irish actor Colin Farrell had roughed up his accent in order to conceal inconveniently middle-class family roots.