Pandora: Did David's top spinner jump, or was he pushed?

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New spin doctor for David Miliband, please. Our pimpled Foreign Secretary, who in the latter part of 2007 had to fend off whispers that No 10 had been briefing against him, is advertising for a "strategic communications director".

The post offers an enticing 115,000 salary, benefits, and the chance to work in an "intellectually rigorous culture" and "build the FCO's and Britain's global reputation". The newcomer "will act as the Foreign Secretary's principal communications adviser".

But what of the post's Seventies hairdo incumbent, Lucian Hudson? The civil servant arrived only 14 months ago. A former journalist, he became known for being efficient, slightly pompous, and for organising lots of drinks parties for former boss Margaret Beckett, which as in the satire The Thick of It were ill-attended.

"RIP," says a source. "It is the last sweep of the broom to get rid of the people Beckett brought in to the Foreign Office when she arrived."

The source added that there has been "friction" between Hudson and Miliband's phosphorescent special adviser Sarah Schaefer. "She wants to be the female Alastair Campbell, which goes down badly with civil service people."

Schaefer doesn't return calls. Strangely, the FCO's press office doesn't know where Lucian is going, or even if he has already vacated his grandiose Whitehall quarters.

Can someone please check underneath Blackfriars Bridge?

'Weirdo' Burton lays into his local rag

Apologies for the violent nature of today's page. Worrying to hear, though, that the Hollywood director Tim Burton has declared jihad against the Camden New Journal, his local paper in north London.

Burton, 49, objects to its coverage of a planning extension to the Belsize Park home he shares with his actress wife Helena Bonham Carter, 41, and offspring. (The couple applied for a 19th-century "shepherd's hut" on wheels in their yard.)

"There was an article that Helena and I were trying to get permission to build a fantasyland in our garden, some kind of amazing gypsy caravan," Burton moans in US Esquire. "Our garden is about the size of this sitting area. And the paper showed a picture of an area that looked like what a homeless person would stay in."

His gripes with the British press extend to discussion of his partner's sartorial habits: "Every other week there's a breaking story under the headline: Helena Bonham Carter Dressed Like Shit. So it's like we've got this reputation for being the neighbourhood weirdos." Spooky.

Carole's gym slip

I fear Carole Caplin will soon lose control of the insurgency raging at the Regent's Park gym she has bought.

As Pandora reported on Monday, guerrilla members are miffed that Fitness First has sold out to Cherie Blair's former "lifestyle" guru. They have been told to vamoose by the end of February. Carole and her well-heeled "friends" are already making themselves busy, "running around with clipboards inspecting and writing notes, making us feel like gatecrashers at our own gym," says my sweaty mole on the treadmill, burning off the turkey dinners. "It's like the body isn't even cold yet."

Carole's new club is referred to in letters as "Life Smart, a company who provide a personal training service only". Membership will no doubt come at considerable expense but then mudbaths ain't cheap. So pay up, or clear off!

Brown knows

Poke your nose through the swing-doors of cockney watering 'oles in the coming months and you will find them hushed, the patrons hands on chins poring over copies of Brian Belton's forthcoming book on West Ham United, Brown Out.

The volume was delayed by lawyers' beady eyes. It charts the football club's 14-year history under the chairmanship of the reclusive and maligned Terence Brown, who sold up in 2006 to an Icelandic consortium led by Eggert "The Egg" Magnusson.

Brown was not the only one to have jitters about the content. "We've 'ad a lotta calls from the club bookshop saying nilly evryone connected wiv the club for the pass 20 years wanted a look," says (also cockney) publisher Cass Pennant. "Even The Egg Man 'imself."

From Albert Square to Afghanistan

Professional 'ard man Ross Kemp travelled to Afghanistan to film his new series, billed as a genuine take on life for young British squaddies fighting the Taliban in Helmand. It appears that the lads of 1 Royal Anglian gave the former Eastenders actor a warm (if sweaty) reception, and inducted him in to that unique armed-forces sense of humour.

"They kept taking pictures of me when I was on the toilet," says Kemp, whose documentary starts on Sky One in two weeks.

"There is a huge bond that develops between people when you experience things like this together. When you are sat on the toilet that everyone is using, when flies from someone else's poo are flying into your mouth, you develop a bond. On Christmas morning I was rung up by 12 of the soldiers before even my family."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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