Now Cameron orders his troops to volunteer

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The Independent Online

* First he hopped on his bike and bought a "green" car, then a team of huskies dragged him across the Arctic circle. Now David Cameron is getting ready to perform the third great PR stunt of his reign.

In a bid to publicise his new brand of caring Conservatism, the Tory leader has instructed all of his 197 MPs to spend their spring break working for local "good causes".

A confidential letter sent by the leader's office on Tuesday commands his MPs to spend the second half of their forthcoming parliamentary recess helping out with national Volunteers' Week.

"What I would like you to do is either visit, or volunteer to work with, an appropriate local organisation as close to that week as you can," it reads.

"If you could let your whip know what you are planning to do, we will compile the information to make clear how we are supporting the week."

The letter, seen by Pandora yesterday, has met with a mixed response from the Tory rank and file.

Although Cameron's stock is high following the local elections, MPs on the right of his party are upset at being told how to spend their free time.

"We've got a two-week recess, which starts next Friday," says one.

"Most of us have booked family holidays and aren't about to cancel them to work in the local Oxfam or whatever left-wing charities Dave wants us to support so he can get a few cheap headlines."

* What, I wonder, will now become of Heather Mills McCartney's efforts to "rebrand" as a self-help guru?

In a cruel twist of fate, Lady Macca is next week due to publish a book on techniques for happier living.

It has already been printed, under the (now) faintly ludicrous title Life Balance: The essential keys to a lifetime of well- being.

Unfortunately, Wednesday's news of her sad split from hubby Paul threw the publishers, Penguin, into something of a panic.

A spokesman says that their author has already decided not to make a public appearance for the launch.

Although shelves of bookstores have already been cleared for its arrival, the tome may now be delayed, or even scrapped.

"At the moment, the book is still scheduled to be released," I'm told. "But it could well be pulled. I'm just not sure yet."

* After all these years, concrete evidence as to how Harold Pinter spends those hard-earned millions.

The new edition of the Register of Members' Interests reveals that George Galloway has received financial support from Holland Park's best-known socialist.

One H Pinter, above, of London W11, made a £2,000 donation to the George Galloway Legal Fund, which was "set up to support my legal actions against the Telegraph Group Limited".

It's very generous of the old leftie, but Pandora wonders if Pinter's wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, below, approved of the bung.

She is, after all, an occasional book-reviewer for (and therefore recipient of pocket money from) the literary pages of the Sunday Telegraph.

* Every day's a victory for John Reid, who's now had almost as many Cabinet jobs as he's had hot dinners.

At this week's Police Federation conference, the Home Secretary revealed that officials are running a book on his survival.

"Reid told delegates that his staff have done a league table for home secretaries' survival rates," I'm told. "They're ticking off days as they go along."

Even if he's sacked tomorrow, Reid reckons his won't be the shortest ever reign. "He claimed that distinction belongs to William Petty, who lasted six days in 1782."

Unfortunately, like many a Home Office statistician, Reid got his facts wrong: Petty lasted more than three months, from 27 March to 10 July.

* Mike Read - DJ, West End impresario, and former Saturday Superstore anchorman - is the latest pop genius to attempt a World Cup anthem.

Sadly, the marketing campaign for his single, "England, My England", has met with disaster, after Read purchased a lorry-load of cardboard megaphones, known as "shouters", customised with his song title.

He planned to distribute them to fans in Germany, but a crucial shipment has just been nicked. "A box of the shouters was delivered to Mike's home yesterday, and went missing off his driveway," reads a statement from Read's spokesman. "It looks like some local kids took them, because today he's suffered numerous incidents in which they've been using the shouters to scream obscenities through his letter box."

Alan Partridge wouldn't put up with this, and neither should Mike.