Pandora: Charge much less or be speechless

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The Independent Online

John Prescott may be raking in the cash on the after-dinner speaking circuit, but elsewhere the credit crunch is taking its toll on the lucrative sideline.

Further to my story last week that the former deputy prime minister had received a pay increase thanks to his BBC documentary Prescott: The Class System And Me, I hear that other regulars at the agency Prezza uses are about to see their salaries move in quite the opposite direction.

Jeremy Lee, the chief executive of JLA, which books speakers, tells me he is keen to cut his clients hefty fees to bring them into line with the state of the economy. "We are keen that everybody wakes up – and that we are seen to be doing so," he says. JLA's celebs currently command up to £25,000 for one appearance, making the practice popular with leading figures in showbusiness, sport and politics. The agency's list of clients includes such political luminaries as Alastair Campbell and William Hague, and the actor Kevin Spacey, pictured.

But the days of megabucks earnings are drawing to a close, says Mr Lee. He claims the company will be conducting a pay review at the end of the month with an eye to making their famous clients available at more competitive rates.

"Our budget is tightening and almost every speaker will be more flexible," he adds.

A brighter Tamara for Ecclestones

Some good news has arrived from the Ecclestone family: Tamara has landed her first major modelling contract.

The eldest daughter of the Formula One tycoon, Bernie Ecclestone, is to be unveiled as the new face of the Mayfair jewellery brand, Moussaieff. "I'm going to star in their new campaign," she told me at a cocktail party. "It's a huge honour."

It is the first big signing for the brunette, whose attempts to make it in the fashion world have until now been limited: a shoot for the lads' mag FHM and a similarly scantily-clad campaign for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The heiress, 23, also insists the furore surrounding her parents' divorce, which could be one of the most expensive of all time, has not dampened her spirits. "If two people are lucky enough to be married for a really long time, that in itself is great," she says.

Film icons' snaps snapped up

One person who isn't feeling the pinch this Christmas is the boisterous restaurateur Marco Pierre White.

Pandora spotted the Hell's Kitchen star perusing the artworks on display at a private viewing at Chelsea's Little Black Gallery. I'm told he splashed out on several portraits by the photographer Terry O'Neill, including a black-and-white shot of a young Paul Newman, as well as Frank Sinatra and Brigitte Bardot, each priced at about £2,000.

No doubt the gesture was appreciated. The boutique gallery, opened recently by the socialite Tamara Beckwith, faces stiff competition, with Charles Saatchi's new Sloane Square showroom just around the corner.

Why no-frills Games can be a thrill

Ever since Beijing hosted the eye-wateringly expensive Olympics in the summer, nay-sayers have claimed that the 2012 Games stand little chance of impressing.

Not so the veteran British competitor Sharron Davies, who tells me that a lack of frills could work in London's favour. "I've been to nine Olympics and far and away the best was Barcelona," says the swimmer, pictured left.

"Ask any athlete and they'll tell you their favourites are the small events in places with good people and culture.

"People don't care which building it is in. We certainly don't need to worry about competing with Beijing."

Tory boy hit rocks Labour Party

David Cameron likes to style himself as a bit of muso – remember those CDs he bought for Barack Obama? – so he won't be too pleased to hear Alesha Dixon's views on his plans for the economy. The pop starlet performed at a Labour Party event last week and delighted the audience with a cheeky dedication: performing her latest single "The Boy Does Nothing" in honour of the Tory leader.

Primrose Hill's street blues

There is disappointment among Primrose Hill's smart set because their annual Christmas street party has been cancelled. The event, usually a favourite with Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Jude Law et al, has been put on hold owing to the expense of decorating the street in north London. "It's going to be very gloomy and bare," said one resident.

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