Oh, Anji! Blair denies return of his gatekeeper

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The Independent Online

Anji Hunter and Tony Blair met at a party in 1970, aged 15 and 17. She went on to work for him in Parliament, and has been described as Blair's "gatekeeper", his "comfort blanket", his "oldest friend in politics" and "the other woman in Tony's life". Her 2001 departure from Downing Street for BP was a blow to the then-Prime Minister. Now rumours grow at a high level that he wants to reinstate her as his right-hand lady.

Relations between Hunter and Cherie Blair, however, were "Arctic". Cherie resented the time her husband spent with his aide, and was "delighted" to see her leave.

But Hunter was central to the Government: no one got to Blair without going through ruthless Anj. She soothed tensions with Gordon, spoke up for countryside Middle Englanders, and unleashed the husky "Anji love bomb" treatment at parties on behalf of the Prime Minister.

Now married to the Sky News teddy bear political editor Adam Boulton, she is soon to leave BP. A well-positioned source tells Pandora: "Blair would like her to work for him again, to join his St James's Square office. Cherie would go mental, though."

Blair's post-No 10 projects include working as a Middle East envoy and establishing the Blair Foundation, a charity promoting interfaith dialogue.

Blair and Hunter were last week reportedly spotted leaving BP's London headquarters together. His spokesman denies that a job has been lined up for Hunter. Pandora looks forward to hearing of her next appointment.

* A tug of love has developed over the fate of little Snowy Geldof – not one of Sir Bob's peculiarly named offspring, but the11-month-old "Teacup" chihuahua belonging to his middle daughter, Peaches, left.

Ms Geldof, who lives with friends in a rented flat in Islington, bought the female pooch on her 18th birthday in March "as a tool to test myself as a responsible adult". She has admitted that caring for the bundle has proved difficult; Snowy wakes Peaches in the night, requires hours of attention and does doggy things like mess the carpet.

I hear, now, that younger sister Pixie Geldof, 17, wants to adopt Snowy. She fed and walked her while Peaches was in Australia recently.

However, Sir Bob is not keen on Snowy becoming a resident of his Battersea household. Pixie, who lives with her pop, has told friends: "Daddy won't let me have it."

* Seriousness has long been discarded as a reasonable expectation of entries for the Turner Prize. Originality has not.

This year's white-hot favourite, Mark Wallinger, has submitted a video of himself in a bear costume wandering around a Berlin gallery. Fans describe it as "a work of art in the greatest traditions of Michelangelo". It is also in the greatest traditions of the comedian Dom Joly.

Bears are one of Joly's recurrent themes, memorably in Trigger Happy TV: the office full of bears,or the man in a bear suit who ran through a market and snatched a fish from a trader.

"He [Wallinger] is using the same suit I had," says Joly. "If I had gone to art school, I could have called Trigger Happy TV art. I have Carter Ruck under instruction," he joked.

* Steve Buscemi cast Sienna Miller in his remake of Interview. Originally by the murdered Dutch director Theo van Gogh, the film is about a world weary foreign correspondent being assigned, fuming, to interview a soap actress. Sexual tension holds it together.

So Sienna, Pandora asked at the premiere, what's it like, playing a celebrity magazine fodder actress on the receiving end of hassle and condescension from a journalist? "Ha, very good. Yes, it's a real challenge. At least in the film the journalist's half-decent." Ouch!

Another hack asked Miller about the grainy photos of her on the countryside film set of Hippie Hippie Shake. (She wears daisies in her hair and nothing else.) Publicity pics leaked to build hype? Sienna flounced off, having made her point.

* Vivienne Westwood had words with her son, Ben, after he borrowed clothes from her collection to use for his erotic photography. (Japanese businessmen pay him, apparently, to tie up The Wife and snap her in various states of undress, to be framed and mounted on their bathroom walls.)

But like all proud mothers, she will be there at the Victoria and Albert Museum on Wednesday 14 November for the opening of a retrospective on 20 years of Ben Westwood's fruity photos.

Ms Westwood is a reader of The Independent, so I feel moved to warn her that, should she present herself at the V&A that evening, in whichever punk frock she has saved for the occasion, she may look slightly out of place at the Holiday Autos (a car rental company) drinks reception. There has been a double booking.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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