Now Tories ask when Blunkett will move home

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The Independent Online

* After months of huffing, puffing, and straightforward obfuscation, David Blunkett is at last being held to account over his £3m grace-and-favour home.

The Tory MP Philip Davies has broken ranks to demand an explanation for Blunkett's continued failure to vacate the Belgravia pad that went with his former Cabinet post.

The move follows a saga that began in November, when this newspaper reported that Tony Blair would let Blunkett, above, remain at the luxurious, taxpayer-funded residence.

A furious Blunkett immediately denied our report, insisting in a letter that it was "misleading" to suggest he'd be remaining there for long.

"I've put up with distortion about my private life for the past six months," he wrote. "I did not expect a respected newspaper to continue in this vein."

That was four months ago. But this week, despite repeated assurances that he has been busy house-hunting, it emerged that Blunkett is still ensconced in South Eaton Place.

Davies, a fellow Yorkshireman, has therefore tabled a parliamentary question, asking when (if ever) he's finally going to move.

"It's obviously a very unusual arrangement, and the public have the right to know just when Blunkett plans to go, and how he continues to justify this arrangement," he says.

"It strikes me as rather bizarre. Like Guantanamo Bay, it's an anomaly that needs to be resolved, but never is. I want to see when it's going to be."

* Last time Christian Slater came to London, his long-suffering wife, Ryan Haddon, ended up booting him into touch.

This time, the raffish Hollywood star, whose divorce will shortly hit the courts, is on the lookout for a replacement.

At the London Palladium on Wednesday he was spotted with the society model Jasmine Lennard.

Pandora spotted the couple canoodling at the first night of Sinatra. Although Lennard was introduced to me as Slater's "date", she swiftly, and firmly, claimed otherwise.

"No, I'm not: I'm still very loved-up with my boyfriend (nightclub owner Mark Alexiou)," she tells me. "Christian is just a very charming friend. In fact, he's invited my boyfriend and me to see his new play when it opens."

Slater, whose play One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest opens later this month, enjoys our capital city's colourful scene.

During his last visit, the News of the World revealed breathlessly how Slater had "betrayed his wife with a £300-a-time London vice girl".

* In his heyday, the former England hooker Brian Moore was one of the most celebrated thugs in rugby.

Thankfully, behind those cauliflower ears lies the finely tuned brain of a culture vulture. For Moore turns out to be a dedicated opera buff.

Such is his expertise that the classical music magazine Gramophone carries a showpiece interview in next month's edition.

Having discussed the Ring cycle - "like going to India: I'm glad I've been, but frankly I don't feel any need to go again" - Moore takes a lofty sideswipe at Luciano Pavarotti and his chums.

"I don't like listening to the Three Tenors in Hyde Park, because I don't like to see them when they aren't under pressure, when they're not having to act as well as sing," he reckons.

"To me, that's the equivalent of a charity soccer game: people are just there to see the players." Snob!

* At this time of global strife, there is local difficulty for the House of Commons authorities.

Madeleine Moon, the MP for Bridgend, has written to the Serjeant at Arms, complaining about the drinks trolley that appears at her committee meetings.

Apparently, New Labour's metropolitan tastes mean it only contains fizzy water. Moon prefers still, for health reasons.

"I can't believe how many people are drinking fizzy water," she tells me. "It's not good for you. It doesn't flush out the kidneys and it pumps carbon dioxide into your bloodstream."

In addition, fizzy water is reputed to give you cellulite. "We already drink too many carbonated drinks in this country without this," she adds.

* Like many of his generation, Sir John Standing is worried by the creeping hand of political correctness.

The magisterial actor, 71, has recently worked with some of Hollywood's rising female stars. He reports that it was a mixed experience.

"I have worked with both Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman recently, and they're both fabulous," he says. "But these young girls will call themselves actors these days. They're not. They are actresses.

"It's very confusing: if I'm a man and you're a woman, I wouldn't go and call you a man. It doesn't make sense."

Sir John was speaking to Pandora at Wednesday's premiere of the film V for Vendetta, in which he stars. "I don't go in for political correctness," he added, quite unnecessarily.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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