Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Pandora: Bigmouth strikes again: Hannan's back!

Time for the latest instalment in the rolling cyber-drama of Daniel Hannan, the Tory Party's very own YouTube hero (or burden, depending on how you see things).

Pandora readers will already be familiar with the erratic MEP's adventures, first as flamboyant lambaster of the PM, and then as vociferous champion of the NHS's demise. Now, fresh from his success addressing the party's spring conference, Hannan has returned with another attention-grabbing sound bite, this time delivered via his blog: "There are two Lefties who follow this keenly," he writes of Fabian General Secretary Sunder Katwala and Liberal Conspiracy's Sunny Hundal. "They are called, confusingly, Sunder and Sunny. As with Ant and Dec, I've never been entirely clear which is which." Understandably, Katwala is feeling less-than-amused by the comment, which he claims reveals more than a little tacit prejudice from Hannan. "As far as I can tell the humour depends on a 'don't these chaps have funny names' piece of side-splitting hilarity," he observes. "Or may be a nostalgic attempt to revive the sadly neglected 'why is it so hard to tell Asian people apart' humour."

Sadly, Hannan wasn't available to clarify which one it was, though Pandora doubts this will be the last we hear of him and his eccentric ways.

Tara shares her naked ambition

"It's sexy, filthy and dirty all in one. If I had bigger boobs, I'd do it." Jodie Marsh on Katie Price's marathon? Er, no: Tara Palmer-Tomkinson discussing naked painting at London's Sketch Gallery. She invited Meredith Ostrom to perform – involving coating herself in paint and rolling on a canvas – before an audience (including, curiously, Michael Portillo). "I said to her, 'you have a talent, you need to get it out there," explains TP-T. "Not many people can say they have tits and arse on their wall, can they?'"

Balls' (possibly) comic turn

"The best-ever treasury story," now, as told by an excited Ed Balls to the Young Labour Conference on Monday evening. After six years' worth of service, Balls' practical joker of a secretary revealed – you'll never believe this, honest – that throughout her entire tenure, she – wait for it – had been skimping on mineral water by refilling the bottles in Balls' office with tap water. Hilarious!

"And I never knew the difference," guffawed the Schools Secretary, to the bemused silence of the audience. Who knew he was such a comedian?

Knowles plays the sympathy card

Prepare your hearts to bleed for Nick Knowles, the BBC presenter paid a reported £1 million a year for his work. Apparently, it's a tougher gig that it looks. "It's so unfair, I work so hard, I only have three days off a month if that," he pleads. "Jonathan Ross and I are quite similar – if we pull in millions of viewers then the BBC are making a profit so we're worth it. I'm the only person with such a flexible contract at the BBC – it includes drama, documentaries and script writing. I've already written seven dramas and intend to write more." Happily, it's not all bad news for Nick: we're told that he managed to "quietly" renew his contract a couple of months ago.

City Hall puts us back in the loop

At last! Boris Johnson has offered his verdict on In The Loop (much to Pandora's dismay, the Mayor's office had previously declined to comment after we spotted him popping in to watch it at an Islington cinema ). "There is a charge that is made against the Labour government, that they politicised the upper echelons of the civil service," reflects Johnson. "That charge is overdone. Even in In the Loop, they are not compromised. New Labour has not destroyed the ethic of impartial service." Mmm. About an eight out of 10, then?