Pandora: Bell puts pen to paper on expenses

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The Independent Online

Further indication, now, of Martin Bell's (imminent, surely?) return to the political fray.

Not long ago we heard that the former BBC journalist, whose history as an anti-sleaze MP has made him the panel show guest of choice in the wake of the expenses scandal, had signed a high-profile deal with glitzy agency Clive Conway Celebrity Productions for a two-month long tour of summer speaking engagements.

And, from the sound of things, we'll be hearing from Bell long after that. We're told that the "man in the white suit" has been talked into penning a book on parliamentary expenses, despite his one-time promise that his 2007 work, The Truth That Sticks: New Labour's Breach of Trust, would be his last.

"He tends to say 'never say never' about everything now – whether it's running for office, or writing another book," says one insider. "He just felt that after the recent expenses scandal, there was a lot more to be discussed and that if someone didn't turn their attention to it, it would have all sorts of implications for the future of politics and younger people's involvement."

Carla takes a break from the Palace

With the Élysée Palace to prowl, what could explain Carla Bruni's trips to her flat in the 16th arrondissement? Pandora's Parisian cousin reports seeing the First Lady there weekly: "We know when she's sleeping here because of the massive police presence." Surely not in need of a break from Sarko?

MPs prepare for their close-up

Terrific news for those Labour MPs feeling the strain after the cost of their soft-focus publicity shots was revealed to the public: you will now be able to get your pictures for free. The Labour Party has arranged a series of 10-minute sessions on 13, 14 and 15 July, at which members will get the chance to have their portrait taken by a top-notch snapper, for no charge whatsoever. Even better, the images can be made available electronically for use in campaign literature. Now that's value for money.

Boris keeps his pride waiting

What's this? It appears Boris Johnson may have been so busy disciplining wayward aides that he has forgotten about other obligations. Organisers of this year's annual gay rights march, London Pride – due to take place in less than two weeks – complain that they have yet to receive any of the funding due from the mayor's office.

"It was agreed months ago," exclaims activist Peter Tatchell. "Contracts have never been this late before. It's creating a financial squeeze. I doubt it is deliberate; probably more a case of a cock-up." Curiously, City Hall declined to comment on that assessment; though we are assured the money will, eventually, materialise.

Cliff finds a new outlet

Those longing for the saccharine crooning of Cliff Richard – Wimbledon can bring out such afflictions in people, or so we're told – will be comforted to know that, just because Centre Court has a roof, it doesn't mean the unfathomably popular singer will be keeping quiet. On the contrary, Cliff has signed a deal to perform at a nearby Morrisons. So, fans, you know where to go. And the rest of us... well, we can steer well clear.