Pandora: Chairman in a pickle over champagne ban

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The Independent Online

The Tory chairman Eric Pickles's much-publicised ban on the triumphant tippling of champagne at this week's party gathering in Manchester has clearly proved rather more trouble than it was worth.

While it has already prompted unhelpful tabloid photographs of David Cameron enjoying the bubbly stuff regardless, not to mention the amusing sight of George Osborne having to dodge the persistent attentions of a bogus champagne waiter yesterday, colleagues privately acknowledge that this has not been the finest hour for the portly Yorkshireman.

"Eric has been a breath of fresh air since he became chairman, but there was no way the champagne ban was ever going to work," points out one party stalwart. "Receptions are inevitably going to be full of the stuff and he is putting senior colleagues in unnecessarily awkward situations."

Pickles, however, remains defiant of criticism. When I enquire if he now regrets the idea, his spokesman curiously insists: "There was never a champagne ban. Eric just was simply calling for less bubbles and more bubbly activity."

I'm sure Mr Cameron has thanked him personally.

Hold the front page, pleads Chakrabarti

Working for a prominent champion of freedom isn't always the bed of roses we imagine. Yesterday morning, a panic-stricken aide to the human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti called my newsroom colleagues, begging for a press release to be crucially amended from "dangerous offenders in the community" to "dangerous offenders at large". We can rest easy now.

Swayne smooths over the cracks

Having seen his good name sullied in this column by unsavoury claims that he allows his boss David Cameron to win their regular jogging jaunts, the silver fox Desmond Swayne urgently contacts Pandora to set the record straight. While some have suggested that Dave's parliamentary private secretary, a fitness enthusiast, deliberately puts on the brakes when they take the morning air, Swayne now assures me: "The Dear Leader out-matches me in any contest."

No sign of sycophancy there, then!

Lydon is all heart

While not traditionally known for displaying inner-doubts, punk icon John Lydon appears unsure when asked whether he is proud to be advertising a leading butter brand. "Uh, I don't know," comes the hesitant reply. "If I'm gonna be held up for heart disease in the future, certainly not."

Turkey-ish delights

Alastair Campbell is in nostalgic mood as he recalls the reign of his controversial old boss, the late media baron Robert Maxwell. He writes on his blog: "Maxwell was given a whole turkey and demolished it before wiping his mouth and blowing his nose on his paper hat." Ah, memories, memories...

pandora@independent.co.uk

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