Old soldiers take aim at Dave's green machine

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The Independent Online

* As he puffs away on his trusty push-bike, or risks frostbite on a Norwegian glacier, David Cameron has started to realise that capturing the "green" vote will be harder than he first thought.

This week, the Tory leader made the car the star of his local election campaign, announcing he's ditched gas-guzzling government cars in favour of an eco-friendly, "hybrid" Lexus.

Unfortunately, Cameron failed to realise that the earnest move , mirrored by several members of his Shadow Cabinet, would cause outrage in one remaining bastion of true blue Conservatism.

Groups representing veterans who served in Japanese POW camps during the Second World War are highly upset by the decision to purchase a vehicle from the land of their former captors.

They are writing to Cameron, claiming it's an improper use of taxpayers' money since (among other things) Japan has never issued what they consider to be a satisfactory apology for its conduct.

"This is typical of politicians thinking what's best for themselves rather than everybody else," says Arthur Titherington, the chairman of the Japanese Labour Camp Survivors' Association.

"The bulldog spirit of this country has completely lost its teeth. It's consistent with much of my dealings with Members of Parliament in the past 50 years."

Titherington's comments shouldn't be taken lightly. In 1998, he masterminded a protest that turned the first Japanese state visit to the UK in modern times into a PR disaster.

* Rowan Pelling, the former Erotic Review editor, was delighted by recent plans for a film of her career starring Rachel Weisz.

She was a fraction less delighted to learn yesterday that author Lilian Pizzichini's latest yarn, There's Nothing Wrong With It, is also based on her.

In the tale, heroine Bunny, a sexually energetic writer, admits to having (like Pelling) posed naked for photographs posted on a fruity internet site.

Several other spooky coincidences have literary London in a spin. "Half the characters in Nothing Wrong were based on writers," says one bookish source. "Some are jolly upset."

Pizzichini yesterday admitted to "borrowing" from acquaintances, saying: "I'm actually writing another story, in which Bunny becomes a Booker Prize judge, just like Rowan."

Pelling, meanwhile, insisted: "Some people might be cross, but I'm not one of them."

* Gurinder Chadha is already reaping the benefits of John Travolta's decision to headline her film remake of Dallas.

The bubbly screenwriter reports that Travolta - who'll play a reincarnated JR Ewing - insists on taking a hands-on role in choosing his leading ladies.

"I'm going to the States next week to meet up with John, as we still haven't finished casting," she said at Monday's Cobra Vision awards.

"We need to find actors to play Lucy and Pammy, and we still haven't found a ranch location yet. We're looking all over the South for somewhere suitable."

Sadly, I gather the Bush family ranch at Crawford, Texas, was ruled out, on security grounds.

* I do hope Tessa Jowell's long and distinguished career isn't about to hit a rocky patch all over again.

On Monday, the Culture Secretary was asked in Parliament about newspaper criticism of a £30,000 lottery grant to Manchester United.

Nothing to do with me, she claimed. "This decision was taken by the regional sports board of Sports England. This was not a decision ministers were party to."

Strangely, just a day earlier, the Sports minister Richard Caborn had told the Sunday Telegraph he was "fully involved" in that very decision.

As opposition MPs have now realised, Jowell and Caborn can't both have been telling the truth. "It's either a cock-up, or a conspiracy," I'm told. "Either way, Tessa's got some explaining to do."

* Fourteen years on, David Mellor remains splendidly prickly about the sex scandal that drove him from office.

The Sun yesterday apologised for repeating the urban myth - apropos of Mellor's affair with the actress Antonia de Sancha - that he wore a Chelsea FC home kit while "on the job".

Its sober correction noted: "Ms de Sancha has in fact made it clear that the allegations of toe sucking and a Chelsea strip are not true."

Mellor, 57, refuses to let this one lie. Last year, his lawyers contacted Max Clifford, who was about to publish his memoirs.

"The upshot was that no mention of the Chelsea strip headlines can appear in my book," said Clifford. "It's absolutely hysterical. He was the only person to make a proper complaint. Everyone else seems happy."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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