Oborne is marched from the Commons for handing out leaflets

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The Independent Online

Whether it is arresting citizens at the Cenotaph or prosecuting a single anti-war protester on Parliament Square, the Government doesn't really "do" personal liberty.

The latest figure to have his collar felt by its bossy arm of authority is the journalist and broadcaster Peter Oborne. On Wednesday afternoon, Oborne was in the passage between Portcullis House and the House of Commons handing out a pamphlet entitled "Muslims Under Siege" to passing MPs.

The document was part of an investigation he has conducted on rising Islamophobia in the UK, excerpts of which appeared in this newspaper last week and in the Channel 4 series Dispatches. Before long, a Commons policeman appeared and informed Oborne and his co-author James Jones that they were to be escorted from the premises. Their names were taken, and the officer informed them he would be filing a report.

Although no reason was given for their removal, and despite a good reaction from most MPs who they spoke to (bar Charles Clarke, who informed Oborne he was "making a fool of himself") a formal complaint had been made to the police by the Labour MP Barry Sheerman.

Sheerman couldn't be reached last night to explain what his grumble was. Oborne, meanwhile, was understandably bewildered.

"I was obviously committing the very offensive act of exercising democracy in the House of Commons," he says. "In honesty, the policeman couldn't have been more charming, but when we asked him on what grounds we were being removed, he couldn't provide and answer."

A spoke in his wheel?

I do hope that Boris Johnson isn't the latest figure to be hit by the capital's rising crime wave.

Usually, the London Mayor likes to pootle along to work at City Hall in the mornings on his mountain bike.

Yesterday, however, Pandora spotted him travelling to work on the Northern line, sans bicyclette. "I can't say for certain why that was," says a spokesman for the Mayor. "But it maybe that he forgot it, or parked it somewhere else or something."

Sadly, Pandora was unable to speak to Mr Johnson directly. He spent most his journey surrounded by a gaggle of excited commuters, all eager to found out how his new job was going.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Now that she is the former first lady of British politics, Cherie Blair no longer has her expensive hairdresser Andre Suard at her beck and call.

Mrs Blair was in Exeter on Wednesday to represent a client at an industrial tribunal. Before the hearing, she had her hair seen to by a local crimper, Nathan Plumridge, who charged her a (comparatively modest) £100.

"When she opened the door to me it was like that classic photo of when she opened the door the morning after Tony Blair won the general election and she was dishevelled," reports Plumridge.

At £100, his services were a relative snip. During the 2005 general election, Suard's invoice – earmarked "hairstyling for Cherie Blair"– set the Labour Party back a whopping £7,700.

No kestrel for a knave

It's official: the ravens are leaving the tower at No 10.

Well, not exactly, but the kestrels certainly are.

Downing Street's gardening team had to perform their very own animal rescue on Wednesday when they found a baby kestrel that had been abandoned by its mother in Gordon Brown's back yard.

The little orphan's green-fingered rescuers, Paul and Jane apparently, named him (or her) PJ, after themselves.

"The bird was passed on to the Royal Parks Association," says a Downing Street spokesman. "We never got to find out whether it was a male or female, they're the ones looking after it now."

All the best, PJ. At least you're in a much safer place now.

Padma's back to the kitchen

Just as Sir Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children is voted the Best of the Booker prize, things are also on the up and up for his ex- wife Padma Lakshmi.

Pandora ran into the former model at Quintessentially's summer arts party on Wednesday night.

Lakshmi is about to return to New York after being signed up for a third series presenting the US reality television show Top Chef.

She was Rushdie's fourth wife, but they split in February last year, weeks after he was awarded a knighthood.

Blair aide lays into Brown's press team

Not for the first time in recent weeks (and surely not the last), one of Tony Blair's former allies has taken to lobbing grenades into Gordon Brown's Downing Street bunker.

Colin Byrne, the ex-head of the No 10 press office, has in his sights Mr Brown's henchman-in-chief Damian McBride, who is affectionately known around the corridors of power as "McPoison".

"From what I can see there is no one at Downing Street from Brown downwards who has any 'street smart'," he tells PR Week. "McBride is just phoning up people and shouting at them. That's all he does. It is pathetic and they are losing friends left, right and centre in the media.

"They do need to get an Alastair Campbell or Andy Coulson-type figure in because at the moment there is no one who understands the media."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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