Pandora: Guess who's coming to dinner?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Cheesemaker Alex James has pencilled in an unusual dinner guest: the Colombian Vice-President. The Blur bassist turned Independent columnist, who for years stuffed marching powder up his toot, went to the wartorn state to film a Panorama about the cocaine industry and the associated kidnappings, landmines, refugees and habitat destruction.

The Colombian President was indifferent to James's gift of a home-made goat's cheese. "He took it, but I never heard anything," explains the musician. "The Vice-President loved it though, he absolutely loved it. I've spoken to him and next time he's in the UK he says he's coming round to the farm for dinner." James described the two men thus: "They are just wicked blokes. I really liked them. And I absolutely trusted them."

Here is the news: 'Today' staff told to work harder

Listen carefully during Radio 4's early morning news bulletins, lest the microphones pick up the gentle crack of a whip in the background.

The Today programme's reporters have been left choking on their cornflakes after being summoned to a meeting with editor Ceri Thomas, in which they learnt that BBC bosses had called for a secret number-crunching audit of newshounds' productivity.

The popular and usually understated Thomas told them that some of them were not breaking enough stories. He produced anonymous charts showing how much work each journalist had done (minutes on air), although did not name names.

"The message was clear and frankly Orwellian," complains a disgruntled lackey. "It was sinister: 'We know who you are.' Some here are curmudgeonly anyway, before being told to work more. Ceri has been 'got at' by the suits." Thomas declined to comment.

The audit is said to be an attempt to deflect the long-running debate at the Corporation about whether programmes such as Today and Newsnight should continue to have their own specialist reporting staffs, or dispense with them and instead draw from a large general pool.

The latter would guarantee blood on Wood Lane.

Bridgend's 'uncool' MP waits to hear from Brand

The priapic former heroin smoking comedian Russell Brand seems an unlikely role model for our nation's youngsters. However, the Labour MP for Bridgend, Madeleine Moon, believes him ideal to visit her South Wales constituency, where there has been a spate of teenage suicides.

Five weeks ago, Moon wrote to Brand asking if he might visit Bridgend. "I am writing as [a] very unhip and uncool MP," she says modestly. "We are doing all we can to engage with young people to try to ensure no more lives are tragically lost. You are someone who these young people look to with respect. I was hoping to get you to appear in the Bridgend Recreation Centre on any date you can offer to talk about your experiences and why it is important they turn to someone for help if they feel they cannot go on."

Moon's office has not heard a squeak from Brand's management, who last night remained silent on the matter.

Archer bothered by God

And lo, it came to pass that the author, perjurer and charity auctioneer Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare stopped believing in God. Jeffrey, 68 in a fortnight, has never been a happy-clapping bible-waver. He did keep wife Mary's Anglican faith, though, while in prison. He published The Gospel of Judas last year and recites passages of the King James. But asked if he believes in God, Archer says: "No I do not."

He explains: "I wonder if there is something we don't know about. I did believe there was a God. But then I looked at the other religions and they're all fighting each other. So what is this God doing?"

Archer is unafraid of death. He tells the interrogator: "I intend to live another 40 years. I shall be at your memorial service and saying a few words on your behalf."


Piers Morgan's interview of Nick Clegg in GQ ought not to pass unnoted. The Lib Dem leader reaches out to the boobs-and-cars constituency by revealing he has slept with "no more than 30 women" – a comment he retracted. He talks of his one-time cross dressing, and his motivations, aged 16, for setting ablaze 20 rare cacti: "The effect was a beautiful glowing halo of fire, and we obviously wanted to repeat it. I was inebriated."

Lord Justice Scott Baker (Diana inquest) began his summing-up: "Members of the jury ... You've heard the evidence and it is your decision that matters ... No one, except you and I, and the gentleman in the public gallery with "Diana" and "Dodi" painted on his forehead has sat through every word ..."