Pandora: Cameron's Lib Dem defector starts to prove his worth

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The Independent Online

When David Cameron proudly announced the defection of the Liberal Democrat MEP Sajjad Karim to the Tories in November, the news was taken with a large dollop of cynicism on all sides of the political spectrum.

Just months before he switched sides, Karim had made a number of disparaging remarks about the Tory leader on several issues, in one outburst branding him a "chameleon". He was also revealed to be a member of an anti-Cameron group on the social networking site Facebook.

But now, five weeks later, I hear Cameron's gamble is finally starting to pay off, as Karim has just persuaded a second Liberal Democrat politician to jump ship to the Conservative ranks.

The MEP for the North West of England played a "key role" in yesterday's defection of the Manchester councillor Faraz Bhatti, a move which was greeted as a massive coup among Tory circles since Bhatti will be their first representative in the city's town hall for more than a decade.

"We have been working closely with one another," Karim tells me. "Like me, Faraz has been noticing changes in the Conservative Party, as well as the fact the Liberal Democrats were becoming increasingly inward-looking."

Clearly not content to rub salt in the wounds of his old colleagues just the once, Karim is warming to his new role of political poacher.

"A number of people have got in touch with me, so I know he isn't going to be the last," he adds. "There are other politicians who will be doing what I have done."

Ringo's Starr turn brings in the New Year

While Sir Paul McCartney's performance on Jools Holland's Hootenanny show turned out to be a bit of a cheat (the show was recorded several days before), his former band- mate Ringo Starr was happy to entertain new year revellers for real.

I hear the Starr spent the evening with fellow musical veterans Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend performing to a small VIP audience at a secret charity gig in Surrey.

"The band was called Totally Abandoned for the night and obviously boasted a fairly impressive line-up," I'm told. "It was very much a word-of-mouth thing and tickets were under 50. They sung mainly old classics,they were great."

It's likely guests woke up the following morning without the traditional New Year's Day fuzziness. Since all three guest stars have successfully fought drink problems over the years, I'm told refreshments were fairly thin on the ground.

Brian's children in the dark

For an undisclosed sum, the former Westlife singer Brian McFadden has spewed forth the details of his recent engagement to Aussie pop star Deltra Goodrem to Hello! magazine.

Although McFadden seems more than happy to spill the beans for the benefit of a glamorous spread in a glossy magazine, he strangely admits he has yet to inform his two children of his forthcoming nuptials.

"It's not something you tell a six-year-old or a four-year-old over the phone. They probably don't know what engaged means," he says. "We will tell them when we see them."

Maybe so, but one does wonder why McFadden has chosen to tell Hello! magazine's several hundred thousand readers first.

Blog off

Harriet Harman has taken a mysterious vow of silence on her official internet blog.

Like a number of her colleagues, the Labour deputy leader (but not Deputy Prime Minister) decided to begin an online diary last year. Although Harman kept it busily updated with activities around the country, she has not posted anything throughout the months of November or December.

Interestingly, her silence seems to have come about at around the time it was revealed that Harman's leadership campaign had received a donation from the eccentric millionaire David Abrahams, which is now the subject of a Scotland Yard investigation.

"It's a pity, as Harriet's blog might have had something worth reading on it for once," points out one party official.

Having a whale of a time

George Michael was once famously arrested in Los Angeles on the amusing grounds of indecent exposure. The same charge might also best describe the recent antics of the singer's former manager, Simon Napier-Bell.

The legendary impresario, who once managed such acts as Wham! and T Rex, has recently posted a photograph on his personal website which shows him swimming stark naked in his swimming pool on Christmas Day. Without going into too much detail, Napier-Bell weighs 19 stone and it is not a pretty sight.

One slightly appalled-sounding visitor has written to the site to inform SN-B he looks "like a Beluga whale from a Coney Island aquarium".

pandora@independent.co.uk

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