Pandora: Balls and Bercow ready for a festive party piece

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The Independent Online

Rudolph, fetch those reins! Someone is striving to be a very good little boy this Christmas.

The chap in question is the new Commons Speaker John Bercow, who has taken the unprecedented step of throwing open his official residence to host the annual Westminster Kids' Club party. The move is in contrast to his predecessor Michael Martin who, we are told, rarely invited MPs, let alone their offspring, into his abode.

"We usually hold it in the members' dining room but this year John suggested his house," explains the event's organiser, the Labour MP Keith Vaz. "His kids have enjoyed the party so he asked me whether we would like to use his house for it. It's very kind." Kind is the word. Included in the evening will be an in-house bouncy castle and, that enemy of soft furnishings, a chocolate fountain.

Not only will the occasion – which raises money for the child poverty charity World Vision UK – mark the first time that the Speaker's house has been used as its venue, it will also be the fifth time that the Schools Secretary Ed Balls, has played the role of Santa Claus.

"Ed is a fixture," chuckles Vaz. "We have considered others – Frank Dobson has the beard and Tom Watson the shape – but Ed simply refuses to give it up."

No surprise there, then.

Porter picks white Christmas wedding

*Bad news for Lucy Porter's legions of male admirers. The winsome comedian is to marry her boyfriend of two years, fellow comic Justin Edwards. "We are trying to plan it for December," Porter tells us. "It might be a fool's errand. It's actually a terrifying thought, being a bride. People say, 'Oh, it will be easy for you. You are used to being the centre of attention'. But that doesn't make it easier." Porter recently won Celebrity Mastermind with a record-breaking score of 35. Her specialist subject was Steve Martin. Watch out!

Opik, the MP as good as his word

*Ever the crusader for noble causes, Lembit Opik added his voice to the outcry over Kate Moss's remark that "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" (honestly, a model who diets! Who could have thought?), promising to lodge an Early-Day Motion in the Commons condemning it. And lo, the famed seducer of pin-thin pop stars made good on his promise. Yesterday, an EDM emerged, requesting "that in future due care and attention is taken by celebrities in the fashion industry when commenting about weight". Ms Moss, take note.

Did Victoria snub Marks and Sparks?

"It was to be a gathering of national treasures," says Victoria Wood in this week's Radio Times, of a recent Christmas advert in which she was asked to appear. "I said, 'No, I'm not going to do it then, thank you very much.' I just don't like it at all. I think it's very limiting. It's meaningless."

No word from Ms Wood's people on what the advert in question was for Marks & Spencer, incidentally, has just become embroiled in controversy over their annual festive plug, starring national treasures Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry and Jennifer Saunders. Critics claim it is sexist. A lucky escape for Victoria?

Rowling returns to literary roots

*Never let it be said that JK Rowling has forgotten her roots as an unpublished writer in search of a break. We're told that the world-famous author who, so the legend goes, began work on her phenomenally successful series of Harry Potter novels while tapping away on a manual typewriter in a small Edinburgh café, could be seen over the weekend tapping away on a laptop in a small Edinburgh café. "She looked a bit like a student finishing her homework," says my mole. Plus ça change...