Pandora: "I had to work!" says Tracey of Tory no-show

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The Independent Online

Was Tracey Emin's absence from a Tory arts do on Tuesday a deliberate boycott?

Some have suggested the taboo-breaking artist – who was invited to the launch of the party's Arts and Creative Industries network, but failed to show up – was turned off by the thought of sipping Champagne with expense-fiddling Tories.

Not so, she tells me. "In fact, I speak to Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt all the time and they are completely pleasant," insists an indignant Emin from her studio.

"I'm sure if I'd gone I would have had plenty of fun. I was stuck working in my studio until after midnight. I have a big show coming up, don't I? Anyway, I think it's worth talking to as many politicians as I can, because I'm canvassing to get tax laws on art-trading changed. I went to Alistair Darling's the other day and I'm sure I'd go and see the Lib Dems too, if they invited me. I'd talk to anyone! Except the BNP, obviously, or any fascist parties." So that clears that up.

Ricky shows his generous side

Has Pandora finally managed to earn Ricky Gervais's favour? The sensitive star took offence last year after we reported that he'd been seen chomping salad. What followed was a foul-mouthed, though not unamusing, tirade on the comic's blog, accusing us of gratuitous gossiping. He was more than gracious, however, at Tuesday's premiere of Night at the Museum 2, pausing to detail us on the joys of working with Ben Stiller. So why did he get so cross in the first place? "[You] were taking the piss! Diet? Look at me!" Fair point.

'Question Time' set to get heated

Look out for a particularly combustible Question Time tonight. With splendid irony, the panel will include the former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, fingered by the Telegraph for claiming a flashy makeover of his London flat on expenses, going head-to-head with none other than Benedict Brogan, the chief political commentator of, you guessed it, the Telegraph. "Yes, ironic is the word," concedes Campbell's assistant. "But he was booked a while ago and he won't be pulling out."

Jade offers a credit crunch discount

Hurry while stocks last! Jade Jagger's designs are going cheap. Very cheap.

So cheap, in fact, that friends of the designer have been invited to gather at her London studio where they can pick up pieces from her recently launched children's line, Queen of Teens, at discount rates.

"[We] would be forever indebted if you could forward the invitation to anyone who you think may be interested in coming," reads the missive.

I do hope Miss Jagger isn't having difficulty offloading stock already. After all, it's only the label's second season.

Skinner confused by online world

Commons trouble-maker Dennis Skinner could be heard grumbling in the chamber yesterday after Prime Ministers' Questions.

Turns out the old boy – once booted out for his heckling habits – was less than thrilled at party leaders' plans to publish members' expenses online.

"I'm not going to be putting my expenses on the internet," he complained to friends. "I wouldn't know how. I've never sent an e-mail and I don't intend to start now."