Pandora: Fawkes gets explosive Commons reception

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The Independent Online

Many a wounded politician would be quick to agree that crossing swords with formidable Westminster blogger Guido Fawkes is a traditionally hazardous business.

That, however, didn't stop veteran Labour backbencher Peter Kilfoyle from throwing down the gauntlet during an entertaining duel in a parliamentary boozer this week.

The Liverpool Walton MP took exception when he was informed that Paul Staines, the man behind the high-profile website, was in the Commons' Strangers Bar on Monday night. Staines, whose notable scalps have included John Prescott and Gordon Brown's ex-henchman, Damian "Smeargate" McBride, was drinking with two of Kilfoyle's Labour colleagues when the furore erupted. "I was with the MPs Tom Harris and Greg Pope and I was getting a round in," Staines tells me. "Suddenly he's ranting at the barmaid 'It's Guido Fawkes! Get him out!' I didn't want to embarrass the Labour MPs. I was with, but I told him I was entitled to be there. It was all a bit childish."

Kilfoyle has come in for flak from Staines of late after the latter reported a survey commissioned by the politician was carried out by his daughter's firm. The MP has dismissed the criticism. He now says: "If I'd had the energy I'd have chucked him out myself.

"I don't think people like him should come into this place, listening in on conversations and writing rubbish."

Dame Judi is a top bird

Dame Judi Dench hardly requires the likes of me to talk up her talents, but I still feel special mention must briefly go to one surprise cameo in the offing. The actress proudly reveals she will have more than one role in the forthcoming Christmas editions of the BBC drama Cranford. "Watch out for the scenes in Cranford featuring a parrot," she declares. "When you hear him squawking and making those clicking noises in his throat, it's me. I happened to be in the editing suite and I said, 'I'm sure I can do it, I'll be a lot cheaper'."

Time for Ringo to enjoy his freedom

Less than two years after he unwittingly became embroiled in hostilities with his native city of Liverpool, a potentially controversial peace offering is making its way across the Atlantic to Ringo Starr.

Relations have been fraught ever since the former Beatle made an ill-fated quip that he missed "nothing" about his birthplace. Now, fresh moves are afoot to persuade the LA-based drummer to travel back to Merseyside and finally accept his Freedom of the City scroll, which has been gathering dust these past two decades.

The plan is backed by West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper, who was behind the idea to honour the band in the 1980s.

Judging by recent events, my hunch is he might just prefer to have it sent over in the post.

Diary dates unclear for MPs

As Labour MPs brace themselves for the inevitably challenging months ahead, Pandora hears they have just received the following festive offering from party chiefs. Along with an emailed invitation for Christmas drinks with Gordon Brown – (let the good times roll) – politicians have also been informed that "Labour 2010 diaries" are now on sale for the bargain price of £7.50 at the party's parliamentary office. Under the circumstances, it's fair to assume many will keep the second part of next year tentatively blank.

Bond Girl Eva's no fan of the jungle

Having been unswerving in my admiration for Eva Green ever since her memorable turn as a Bond Girl, I'm perturbed to learn that auditions are still proving a trial. The Casino Royale star has been bemoaning the indignities she has to suffer courtesy of casting directors. "There's always something wrong," she complains. "They're brutal, it's a jungle. It's as if you're a facade, like a model who can't act." Before anyone becomes overly concerned for the poor lass's career, it's also fair to point out she has four new films in the pipeline.