Pandora: George sings Billy's praises (like Dave)

Billy Bragg has found an unlikely fan in George Osborne. The former left-wing firebrand and the Shadow Chancellor both appeared as guests on Andrew Marr's Sunday AM show last weekend. Once the cameras stopped rolling, the pair exchanged pleasantries about Bragg's song "A New England".

"He was telling me how much he liked it, which at that time of the morning was a bit shocking, to be honest," Bragg tells me. "It takes all sorts I suppose. I'm cool with it. Although he did explain it was the Kirsty MacColl version he liked, of course."

Funnily enough, David Cameron said pretty much the same thing earlier this year on Radio 4's The Jam Generation.

Coincidence, I'm sure.

Gordon's too busy to make waves for Ken

As important as Ken Livingstone's bid to remain London Mayor is to New Labour's fate, Gordon Brown can hardly be accused of being a towering beacon of support.

This week, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have appeared on the London-based radio station LBC to speak on behalf of their respective mayoral candidates, Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick.

But, with just over a week until the vote and Ken trailing marginally in the polls, securing a commitment from someone high up in the Government's ranks proved more problematic.

After a delay of several days, LBC was finally informed yesterday that the Prime Minister would not be making an appearance. Instead, junior minister Tessa Jowell will speak on Ken's behalf next week.

"The other parties were very quick to commit to this, but Labour were slow to get back to us for some reason," explains LBC. "We have finally just had confirmation that it will be Tessa Jowell coming in on Tuesday."

With due respect to Jowell, it is hardly bringing in the big guns. At a time when even Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell are said to be offering last-ditch help to save Livingstone's campaign, the Mayor needs all the support he can get.

"Obviously Gordon Brown has more commitments in his diary than the other two party leaders," says a spokesman at City Hall. "There is nothing more in it than that."

Who's the Mummy? Not me, says Rachel

Now that Rachel Weisz has got a shiny gold Oscar on her mantelpiece, she can clearly afford to ruffle feathers in Hollywood.

The English beauty, by her own choice, won't be appearing in this summer's blockbuster The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor, despite starring in the previous two movies. Her reason for doing so, she told a newspaper last year, was because it required spending five months in China with her two-year-old son.

However, speaking to the Hollywood press this week, the director Rob Cohen now claims it was because she did not take kindly to the news that her character would have a 21-year-old son.

"I received a very angry phone call from [Weisz's] agent saying she will never play the mother of a 21-year-old," says Cohen. "I said, 'Okay, good, fine, bye."

Weisz can be probably be forgiven. After all, she has only just turned 36.

When Ari met Rob (not)

There is an old adage in stage school which says that actors should always be able to empathise with the characters they are portraying.

Try telling that to the US comedian Rob Corrdry, who has recently been cast as George Bush's hawkish press secretary Ari Fleischer in the film W – the eagerly awaited biopic of the US President from noted controversialist Oliver Stone.

"I have no urge to meet Ari Fleischer," Corrdry told me recently. "I have watched a lot of tape on him and I live through him, but I don't think I have to shake the guy by his hand."

George W, by the way, will be played by Josh Brolin, the step-son of that celebrated Democratic Party supporter Barbra Streisand. So don't expect much sympathy there then either.

In and out

One curious detail to emerge from Lembit Opik's engagement to Cheeky Girl Gabriela Irimia was the news that the happy couple had failed to inform her mother, Margit, before going public with the news. While Lembit and his bride were busy announcing the news to the media, Mrs Irimia revealed that the Lib Dem had "forgotten to ask for her hand from me".

Opik's defence can hardly claim the engagement was a spur-of-the-moment affair. As this week's copy of Hello! shows, the couple had, for an undisclosed sum, agreed to give the glossy magazine an exclusive – complete with holiday snaps from Rome – several days before the news officially broke.

There's nothing like getting on the right side of your future mother-in-law.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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