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.

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