Pandora: Bell eases back on his anti-Blears campaign

Having endured a fraught few weeks after she jumped ship from Gordon Brown's Cabinet, it seems there is at last one good piece of news for Hazel Blears.

As well as surviving an attempted coup by Labour colleagues bidding to deselect her, the MP for Salford had faced the unwelcome prospect of a battle with the white-suited ex-war correspondent Martin Bell at the next election.

Bell, who famously unseated Neil Hamilton in Tatton in 1997, recently suggested that he could be ready to challenge the former communities secretary for her seat as a punishment for her role in the MPs' expenses scandal. Only this month, Bell was reportedly sounding out support in the area. By the time I contacted him yesterday, however, his enthusiasm for a Westminster comeback had significantly cooled, and he insisted that a challenger to Blears should, in fact, be local. "Quite apart from anything else, I'll be 71 come the next election," he said. "Who would want to vote for an old man? I'm in touch with a few people in Salford but I am recommending what I call the 'local hero' option."

Bell will instead devote all his energies to a forthcoming book about the expenses furore. "I wanted to call it Swindlers' List but my publisher felt that would be too jocular," he explains.

Morgan and Geri kiss and make up

*It is heartening to report a belated warming of relations between Piers Morgan and Geri Halliwell. The pair clashed in the past, with the former Daily Mirror editor ungenerously calling the ex-Spice Girl, right, the world's "most annoying" celebrity. However, those expecting further hostilities when the pair came face to face at Cartier International Day at the Guards Polo Club were left disappointed. "Geri went over to Piers and congratulated him on his professional comeback," I'm told. "Piers was very polite and invited her on to his chat show."

Ex-Blue singer scores an own goal

*There was a fitting tribute to the former England football manager Sir Bobby Robson at the weekend, when ex-players and celebrities joined forces to take on a rival German side in aid of his cancer charity. Robson enjoyed watching his makeshift England XI prevail with a 3-2 victory at St James' Park, home of his beloved Newcastle United. One player, the former Blue singer Simon Webbe, unfortunately managed to raise a few hackles when he was heard to pay his respects to "Sir Bobby Charlton".

Ditch the diet, warns Johnson

Boris Johnson was touchingly among the first to publicly express his concern for Nicolas Sarkozy's health yesterday, following news of the French President's collapse.

While commentators have raised questions about M. Sarkozy's relentless fitness regime, not to mention the potential physical effects of married life with the former model Carla Bruni, London's Mayor, pictured, was keen to offer a less fashionable theory during an appearance on Absolute Radio.

"I was very worried about Sarkozy collapsing like that because he was on a diet," he told presenter Christian O'Connell. "That shows you, stay away from diets!"

'Mandy is Labour Party's best hope'

*Lord Mandelson's remarkable grip on power may tighten by the week, but even that isn't enough for some of his more enthusiastic supporters. The chairman of the Labour Party's finance and industry group, Dr Peter Slowe, is championing the ultimate promotion for the First Secretary, hailing him as the "best placed" to lead Labour into the next general election. "Mandelson is the only one with the clout, intellect and charisma who could realistically take on the Tories and win," he insists.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before