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


Pandora: Blairites cramp Gordon's style in the Big Apple

If preparations for today's make-or-break speech at the Labour Party conference weren't stressful enough for Gordon Brown, his forthcoming trip to New York will also have had him rapidly reaching for the antacids.

According to a report in last weekend's Independent on Sunday, the Prime Minister's entourage were furious when they arrived for the closing ceremony for the Olympic games last month, after they had discovered that Beijing had been "overtaken by Blairites".

Blair and his family had been socialising for days at Chinese capital's British outpost, London House, and so had his good friend, Tessa Jowell, who is rumoured to support a David Miliband leadership bid.

Now, lightning appears to be about to strike twice. Because when Mr Brown arrives in the Big Apple tomorrow to attend Thursday's UN General Assembly session, not only will he have to share the diplomatic stage with his foreign secretary David Miliband, he will also have to contend with the presence of his illustrious predecessor. Mr Blair is in town in his capacity as the envoy of the Middle East peace quartet.

Mr Blair, still adored by many Americans, has already been making political hay on the east coast this week. After delivering a lecture on religion to over 2,000 students at Yale University on Saturday, he was then splashed across yesterday's papers after he was photographed going to church on Sunday with the U2 singer, Bono.

"Bill Clinton's big charity bash at the Metropolitan Hotel on Thursday evening should certainly make fascinating viewing," muses a diplomatic source mischievously.

"It is being held in aid of the Clinton Global Initiative. All the big hitters are expected to be in attendance, so it'll be interesting to see if both Brown and Blair turn up."

For Flee, a jolly good fellow

After breaking up with Formula 1 driver Jenson Button earlier this year following a two-year romance, Florence Brudenell Bruce has moved on to another big hitter.

I hear that the leggy model has recently begun stepping out with an eligible young buck by the name of Henry St George.

St George is the son of the late multimillionaire financier and racehorse magnate Edward St George, a close friend of the Queen who is credited with turning the Caribbean island of Grand Bahama into a tourist attraction.

"Henry's a great chap," says a chum. "He and 'Flee' have been together for a couple of months now.

"I'm not certain he knows how to handle a Honda F1 quite like Jenson can, but he could certainly afford to buy himself a couple."

Hoskins takes scripts sitting down

Although a veteran of some 50-plus movies during his lengthy career, Bob Hoskins proudly claims to have never taken an acting lesson in his life.

The cockney diamond also adopts a similarly unconventional approach when it comes to selecting his film scripts.

"Cold bum test," he says. "I take [the script] to the khazi in the morning and if I end up with a cold arse I think, 'This has got to be a good script.'

"If you notice you've got pins and needles, you think: 'This must be a good one.' "

Hoskins, speaking in this week's edition of Time Out magazine, doesn't reveal whether he applied his unusual litmus test to his 1993 movie Super Mario Brothers. As anyone unlucky enough to have seen that particular prize turkey would testify, it would have been more merciful to have flushed its script straight down the loo.

No thank you for the music

My report that a journalist from the NME was ejected from Pete Doherty's recent gig at Camden's Prince of Wales Pub for chucking a bottle has been met with pleas of innocence.

"I never threw anything, honest," insists the young fellow, who prefers to remain nameless.

"The PRs wanted me to ask Pete about fashion and I wanted to talk about music. So they turfed me out."

Artistic differences

An intriguing insight into the oh-so private lives of William and Ffion Hague. The couple don't "do" movie nights, it seems. At a recent photo op to save a local cinema, Hague was asked when he last visited the picture house.

"Er, not for a while," he admitted. "My wife and I have different tastes in films."

Arctic Monkey's cold beer

Barring disaster, the first pint will be pulled today at the Bowery pub in Sheffield, which is owned by the Arctic Monkeys' drummer Matt Helders. It was due to open on Saturday but staff postponed for "reasons completely out of our control".