Pandora: Hot Shot Shahid relinquishes his title


Pandora has lost track of Shahid Malik's comings and goings in recent weeks, what with his resigning as a minister over expenses, only to return to the Government a week later and then become the subject of an investigation by John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Now, word of another surprise move from the Communities minister – and hitherto title-holder in the Parliamentary Pool Championship.

We're told that Malik, who for the past three years has won the contest, traditionally held in the Westminster drinking institution Annie's Bar (now remodelled as an ultra-modern smoothie-shop), has decided, of all things, to bow out. Instead, he will leave his parliamentary colleagues to fight it out amongst themselves (and with competing lobby hacks).

Mr Malik wouldn't be drawn on why he had decided to sit this year out, though no doubt the news will come as some relief to his usual competitors – in particular the Labour MP David Wright, knocked out in last year's semi-finals, and Peter Brooksbank, Officer of the House, also a front-runner for the title. And with prize money regularly totalling well over £1,000, what's not to play for? Pandora should add, of course, that all funds won are donated straight to charity. Good luck!

Springer heads to Westminster

Was it? Wasn't it? MPs were left scratching their heads after someone who appeared to be Jerry Springer arrived for a House of Commons tour. Tragically, the great man's publicist refused to comment on his client's whereabouts, though were it a look-alike they certainly had Andrew Gwynne, Ed Balls' Parliamentary Private Secretary, fooled. "Am I seeing things or is Jerry Springer in Westminster?" he tweeted. As far as Pandora's concerned, there could be no better arbiter for parliamentary spats. Perhaps he could be the next Speaker?

David gets down with the kids

Who'd have guessed it? David Dimbleby is a man after our own hearts. Which is to say: a Desperate Housewives fan.

The usually erudite Question Time presenter confessed to his love of the frothy Channel 4 soap during a visit to Treviglas College in Cornwall, the venue of a recent QT broadcast. "A few questions were asked of the students, who in turn were grilled by Mr Dimbleby," confides one teacher. "What was striking was that such a well-known presenter could be so warm and friendly to the youngsters, sharing with them his love for Desperate Housewives." Striking indeed – though Pandora would be even more intrigued to know with which character Dimbleby feels he can most identify? Personally, we see him as a bit of a Bree: multi-talented, perfectionist.

Book launch full of slimy characters

Farah Damji celebrates the launch of her autobiography Try Me on Tuesday ("Colourful" may be an understatement, the jailbird turned memoirist is famed for her eccentric antics, from high-profile liaisons to self-documented prison escapes). Appropriately, she has enlisted the help of wacky performance artist Mark McGowan, last seen burning effigies of the Prime Minister. "He'll try to break the world record for how many snails he can have on his face at once," we're told. "Each one will represent someone in the book."

Rupert's social life in recovery

Delightful to see Rupert Grint fully recovered from his brush with swine flu. The carrot-topped actor – best known for his goldfish-like performances as Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films – was in sufficiently good health to attend the premiere of the franchise's latest instalment on Tuesday night. Still, he appears to be feeling some after-effects. "I've noticed how people tend to back away when I sneeze," he mused on the red carpet. "There were a lot of people wearing masks as well."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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