Pandora: Alan Duncan, the Tory poster boy for reform?

The Tory mischief-maker Alan Duncan was the source of considerable hand-wringing among his colleagues over the summer, following the release of a covertly filmed video in which he joked that MPs had been forced to "live on rations" since the expenses scandal and were "treated like shit". The videographer had form, having previously broken into Duncan's garden and dug a £1 coin into his lawn.

At the time, many thought that his days as shadow Leader of the Commons were numbered. Now, however, it seems he has been given a chance to redeem himself.

We are told he is preparing for an on-stage appearance at the forthcoming party conference in Manchester, where he will address the thorny subject of parliamentary reform. Alongside Duncan will be Oliver Letwin, chairman of the party's policy review group, and Francis Maude, shadow Cabinet Office minister.

Of course, chief among matters to be addressed will be the not insignificant question of MPs' expenses. As for which of the three will handle that particular issue, conference organisers are evasive, insisting that the final format of the event "has yet to be decided".

For entertainment's sake, let's hope it's Duncan.

Churchill rings in the winning side

On Tuesday, we reported that the Conservatives were offering party faithful the irresistible chance to download their very own political ringtone. On offer were recordings of Margaret Thatcher's famous "the lady's not for turning" speech, or Sir Winston Churchill's "we shall fight on the beaches". While David Cameron's choice remains a mystery, we can report that, overall, it was Churchill who won the day, proving a more popular soundtrack than the Iron Lady. "It was actually very close," says our man at the buttons.

Ritchie gets ready to go off the rails

All right, son. Roll them guns up, count the money and put on your seatbelt: Pandora's favourite diamond geezer is changing direction.

We hear that Guy Ritchie, he of gangster flicks and high-profile marriages, may be branching out.

A Pandora mole spotted the director, who is soon to film a series of comic-book adaptations, lunching in London's Soho yesterday, deep in discussion about another project.

"He was listening to a production pitch," we're told. "Apparently, it involves bandits hijacking a train and getting it derailed. They kept assuring him that it was a 'Very Big Project'. Who knows? It could be about Ronnie Biggs."

Clegg gets in touch with his animal side

Limbering up for the proposed pre-election debate on television, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg reflects on his potential Achilles heel.

"Someone once asked me if I could name the world's largest mammal," he tells us. "I had no idea – I'm a politician, not a naturalist."

As it happens, it's a blue whale, which can grow to 32.9m long and 172 tonnes in weight. Zoology has always been a Pandora strong point.

Suralan by any other name...

Revolution in the ranks at The Apprentice. With Karren Brady, managing director of Birmingham City, ready to take over the reins from Margaret Mountford, what is to be done about the small matter of Suralan's surprise Lordship? "They have just decided that candidates will have to call him 'Lord Sugar' instead of Sir Alan," says our source on the production team. "That's how we address him when we call him at home; it just makes sense. The opening credits are going to get an overhaul too."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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