Pandora: Hay fever: Rebellion in Booth's kingdom

The pitched battle between the booksellers of Hay-on-Wye and the renowned literary town's self-styled "King" Richard Booth is threatening to get ugly.

Booth is widely credited with putting Hay on the map, turning it into a global attraction for second-hand book lovers as well as pioneering its famous literary festival.

Earlier this year, however, some of the town's booksellers began to blame Booth for collapsing sales, arguing that he was no longer capable of attracting the sort of publicity the town in needs.

Since then, a tongue-in-cheek campaign has been launched by two local businesses, Oxford House Books and Boz Books, to bring the so-called King to trial in April.

As a publicity gimmick, they have now begun advertising for a "state executioner" which has been sent out to local job centres.

Although not meant as a serious gesture, some locals reckon the campaign is in dubious taste, not least as Booth is known to have been unwell for a number of years.

Nighy is Blunt with his tastes

It says something for Emily Blunt's pulling power when she manages to drag an ageing smoothy like Bill Nighy out on a wet, windy night. The actor attended the premiere of Young Victoria on Tuesday, even though he's not in it. "I don't come to other people's premieres because I always feel a bit of a lemon, but I am here because I adore Emily," said Nighy, 59. "She is not only deeply charming and alluring, she is also incredibly gifted. She has a masterful range, is obviously glamorous, funny as anything and a good laugh too. And now she owes me dinner."

The mystery of the Churchill bust

What fate awaits the Winston Churchill bust from the Oval Office that Barack Obama has eschewed in favour of a statue of Abraham Lincoln?

According to reports, the bronze, which was loaned from the British Government's art collection in the wake of 9/11, is now gathering dust at the ambassador's residence in Washington. However, no one from the embassy was able to say yesterday whether it would remain there or be returned to Britain. Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist MP Gregory Campbell has filed an early-day motion insisting that the bust goes on display elsewhere in the US to remind Americans of the great man's "courage, leadership, vision and determination".

Howard's way with political grandees

The launch of A Matter of Loyalty, the new political thriller by Michael Howard's wife Sandra, was attended by a veritable who's who of Tory grandees .

Among the guests who gathered at the British Academy were Michael Heseltine and the former Chancellor Norman Lamont, both of whom Mrs Howard appeared to credit with helping with her research.

"So many of my husband's political associates and colleagues have proved indispensable in giving me insight into the day to day workings across politics, and so many of them are in this room," she said.

"It takes me so long just to write a single syllable, but they have proved invaluable. They know who they are."

Howard reserved special thanks for the help she received from her other half, which is unsurprising given that the much of the book's plot revolves around the Home Secretary.

"Well, she does say she does some of her best research in bed," added the old bloodsucker, somewhat disconcertingly.

Dog-eat-dog diplomacy

As Dmitry Medvedev prepares to go eyeball to eyeball with Barack Obama, the Russian President has already put one over his US counterpart.

Medvedev's two pet English setters, Joly and Daniel, recently took first prize at Eurasia 2009, the Russian equivalent of Crufts.

The Obamas are reportedly on the hunt for a Portuguese water dog. Since they are looking around shelters, their pooch is unlikely to be walking away with any rosettes in the near future.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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