Pandora: Dave and Condi's sleepover

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jack Straw's salivary glands squirted at the sight of Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State. In 2006, the unmarried Alabama boffin let our exhausted then-Foreign Secretary sleep in her bunk on a flight to Baghdad, while she took the aisle floor. ("I feel a bit of a cad about it," said Straw. "I was so tired.") In return he tried to dazzle her with an all-expenses grand tour of Blackburn, before getting fired.

What is it about Condi's fatal attraction to British foreign secretaries? The 53-year-old has already been to Kabul with David Miliband, 42, and yesterday spirited him off to her home in Palo Alto, California, for two days. "It is also for her personal," said her spokesman. "She is able to share with one of her close colleagues a little bit of her life." Stop sniggering at the back.

Champagne lefties, al-Qa'ida and a tale of two Jasons

The appointment of Jason Cowley to the long-vacant New Statesman editorship surprised political tarts, who expected a weightier figure to seize the helm of the lefty weekly. His eccentric career path has taken him from the literary pages via football writing to editing Granta.

I hope this is not a case of mistaken identity – particularly as it would not be the first such incident.

Two years ago the executive editor of the Evening Standard, Anne McElvoy, instructed her assistant Connie Allfrey to ring Cowley, then boss of the Observer Sports Monthly, to ask him to compose an article about Islamic terrorism. Perplexed, Cowley nevertheless dived in: "Err, O-K, then." Turning to his keyboard, he began uncertainly to tap his thoughts on the world's jihadis.

Aaaargh! Crashing down on McElvoy came the realisation that the man she had intended to commission was Jason Burke, also at The Observer and the author of a book on al-Qa'ida.

Poor Connie was tasked with calling Cowley, by now getting in the swing of top-deck foreign correspondence, to explain. McElvoy sent the angry scribe two bottles of vintage bubbly.

Cowley claimed yesterday: "I wrote a piece I think about the countryside protest and that was the extent of my dealing with her to my recollection." Naughty Jason! Why deny it, wally? McElvoy confirms: "He took it in very good spirit."

Cowley's musing on al-Qa'ida looked lost for all time, but perhaps, once he joins the Statesman in September, pages can be found?

Fear and loathing with Felix at the Hay Festival

It's a far cry from the days of William Wordsworth, but as jolly 21st-century poetry beanos go, Felix Dennis's trip to the Hay Festival on Monday makes one's heart vault the stanzas.

The megabucks bard and magazine publisher, an eruption of hair with an estimated £750m fortune, has invited a select band of journalists for a boozy literary day out. The fortunate hacks will be chauffeured to the Brecon Beacons to potter around Hay – see Salman Rushdie, General Sir Mike Jackson or Paul Greengrass – and hear Dennis talk about tree poetry in the evening. He will bring vintage wine and, after the talk, take the rosy guests in his helicopter, dropping each off "wherever you live" on the way back to his Warwickshire pile.

But after Dennis's recent Chablis-inspired claim that "I've killed a man. I had a little meeting with him, pushed him over the edge of a cliff," scribes may feel twitchy about joining him in the sky, lest any sniffy reviews find them ejected from the 'copter.

Mick misses United's hurrah

Simply Red crooner Mick Hucknall is that scarce beast: a Manchester United fan who actually hails from Manchester. So he was miffed to end up working all of Wednesday evening, meaning he missed the team's historic triumph over Roman Abramovich's Chelsea in the Champions League final in Moscow.

"I had to go out and do a gig in Wentworth at nine o'clock and was tearing my hair out," he told me at yesterday's Ivor Novello Awards. "Fortunately, there was this very pretty blonde girl to the left of the stage who started waving a Man U shirt halfway through, which I took as a signal. I went as mental as she did."

Prince Harry had a bad night. Pandora sat next to him in the Ifield pub in Chelsea, where he was cheering "Come on Lamps!" with the former England rugby player Will Greenwood. He stormed out the moment Man Utd won on penalties.

Dalai Hammer

Yesterday's sitting of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee fizzed with excitement at the Dalai Lama's new stand-up comedy routine, which has developed since he mocked my colleague Johann Hari for being fat. Some chatter was directed towards His Holiness's robe selection, burgundy with a blue trim, a combination noted by the committee's chairman Mike Gapes (Lab, Ilford South), a nuts West Ham season ticket holder to be found in the Bobby Moore stand.

Colonel Blimp will be spluttering in to his pink gin. The historic Westminster building formerly known as Conservative Central Office, 32 Smith Square, flogged for £30.5m, has subsequently been bought by... the European Parliament and the EC. It will be the new UK headquarters of the EU.