Pandora: Blast from the past as Boris's 'close' friend joins Policy Exchange

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The Independent Online

When Boris Johnson recently appointed Anthony Browne, a director at Policy Exchange, to the role of head of policy at City Hall, many assumed that it marked a further closening of ties between the Tories and the right-wing think tank.

After all, Boris has already had its former boss, Nick Boles, working there as his interim chief staff.

So the London Mayor may find it slightly awkward to discover that Policy Exchange has just handed a senior role at the organisation to Anna Fazackerley, the former journalist with whom he was once reported to have had an affair.

Fazackerley, previously a highly rated staff member of the Times Higher Education Supplement, has been given the newly created role of research director for arts and culture. She has spent the past two years working for Agora, an independent think tank which focuses on education and the arts.

While I'm sure it will be nothing but professional, it's hard to imagine Fazackerley's role not bringing her into contact with the Mayor. Her brief will apparently include research on the Olympics and future funding of the arts, subjects which one would imagine appear very high up in the Mayor's in-tray.

Rumours of the affair (which neither ever admitted to) emerged in 2006, when the News of the World reported that Boris had been seen visiting the London flat belonging to Fazackerley – a 29-year-old "miniskirt-wearing blonde" – three times in the space of a fortnight.

Thandie's Cinderella story

Nice to know Pandora is back on Thandie Newton's Christmas card list.

Last year, her father, Nick Newton, put green ink to paper after the column mistakenly described her as Zambian.

But at the premiere of her new movie, RocknRolla, she was more than happy to chat.

"I love premieres. We get given these beautiful dresses so it's wonderful getting ready," she said.

"But then we have to give them back freshly ironed and folded at the end. Its like playing Cinderella."

Fiona's colleagues eye up the exit

Fiona Phillips's imminent departure from GMTV at Christmas means that bubbly blonde duties will be left to her fragrant co-presenter, Penny Smith.

But even Smith, right, who joined the breakfast channel 15 years ago, admits that she may not be around for ever.

"I think John Stapleton and myself are slowly heading together for the retirement home," she told Pandora at the Tabasco-sponsored British Oyster Opening Championships on Monday evening.

Before Phillips tootles off, however, Smith is hoping to barter some time away from the sofa herself in order to meet the publishing deadline for her new book.

"I'm actually trying to take a holiday away from TV so I can finish it," she added. "I'm supposed to deliver it to the publishers by the end of October."

Top Tory to head Eton

A puff of white smoke at David Cameron's alma mater, Eton College. As widely expected, Tory brainbox William Waldegrave, a former chief secretary to the Treasury during the final years of the Major government, has been appointed the school's new Provost.

He succeeds Sir Eric Anderson, Tony Blair's favourite teacher and mentor during his time as a pupil at Fettes.

In a note to pupils and staff, Anderson wrote yesterday: "After 14 years as head master and eight as Provost I cannot pretend that leaving Eton will not be a huge wrench, but we are greatly consoled by the thought that the governing body and the Provost's Lodge will be in such good hands."

Shami calls a truce

There has been a lull in hostilities between Liberty's director, Shami Chakrabarti, and the Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham.

A row kicked off between the pair in June, when Burnham mischievously claimed in an interview that the civil rights campaigner had been engaging in "late-night, hand-wringing, heart-melting phone calls" with the Tory bruiser David Davis.

At the time, Chakrabarti threatened to call in the silks. However, she's since decided to draw a line under the matter.

"I got as close to an apology as you ever get with New Labour, so I've decided to let it go," she told me at the Harper's Bazaar Women of the Year awards. "The whole thing was ridiculous."

Cruise's co-stars plead ignorance

Tom Cruise's colleagues from the cast of Valkyrie haven't exactly been rallying to his cause since the jinxed Second World War movie received yet another setback.

Last week, the film was hit by a £6m lawsuit from extras who claimed to have been injured during filming. One of its stars, Tom Wilkinson, insists he knows nothing about it.

"I'm not involved, no. Actually, I've never heard anything about that,"he tells me.

"Are you sure its true? It doesn't sound true to me. I'm not involved anyway. Sorry I couldn't help you on that."

The film is about the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler. Ironically, Wilkinson plays Friedrich Fromm, the German officer who ends up doing the Cruisester over.