Pandora: In step with New Labour

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The Independent Online

Tessa Jowell was among the guests who attended last week's Rock 'n' Roll Circus fundraising gala at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London.

The Olympics Minister, who arrived at the bash in a rather fetching bright pink outfit, was spotted after the dinner, dancing enthusiastically with Dame Gail Ronson, whose property tycoon husband, Gerald, was jailed for his part in the 1986 Guinness scandal. Like Jowell, Ronson has impeccable New Labour credentials.

Aside from being honoured by Tony Blair back in 2003 for her sterling work involving the charity Jewish Care and the Royal Opera House, she is also good chums with Blair's former tennis partner and resourceful fundraiser, Lord Levy.

Brummies make a crisis out of a drama centre

The BBC's chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, is facing an awkward decision over the fate of one of its key drama centres in Birmingham.

With the corporation's relocation to MediaCity in Salford, Manchester, already under way, there are fears that the move could result in the closure of the BBC Drama Village at Selly Oak, on the University of Birmingham's campus.

Its closure would be a setback for television production in the area (the daytime soap Doctors is filmed there) and would naturally result in job losses. It is problematic for Sir Michael. Not only is he an adopted Brummie, but for six years he was also a professor of public policy at the university. On top of that, he once served as a Birmingham city councillor before moving on as chief executive for various local authorities.

Last week, the local Labour MP, Lynne Jones, tabled an Early Day Motion on the matter, calling on the BBC to guarantee the future of the Drama Village at the earliest opportunity.

"I wrote to [chief creative officer] Peter Salmon recently and got a reply from [BBC director-general] Mark Thompson saying no decision had been made, but clearly there is a question mark hanging over the Drama Village," she says. "I think a decision is being taken in autumn but we've been given no reassurances."

A spokesman for the BBC insisted that whatever the decision, Sir Michael's loyalties would be to the BBC Trust. "He has to answer to licence-payers," I am told. "Besides, he doesn't have such close ties to Birmingham any more."

Will Bee's beau be in vogue with mom?

There is news of an intriguing union involving Bee Shaffer, the graceful young daughter of the Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

I hear that Shaffer, who was brought up in New York, has been stepping out with an eligible young Brit by the name of Fred Sykes.

The fledgling romance is all the more intriguing since Sykes is the youngest brother of the New York socialite Victoria "Plum" Sykes, who during her time as a journalist at Vogue was considered to be Wintour's protégée.

"They started seeing each other a few weeks ago," reports a chum. "Freddie knew Bee's brother, Charlie, from when they were at Oxford, which I suppose is how they met. Anyway, they now appear to be quite an item."

It's not known what Schaffer's icy maman makes of the pairing, but it could be interesting if the couple ended up moving to New York.

While the Sykes sisters became a staple on the Big Apple's social scene, Fred's brother Tom caused havoc throughout east coast society – and went on to detail it all amusingly in his boozy memoir What Did I Do Last Night?

Rhys laps up the single life

Contrary to recent tabloid speculation, the actor Rhys Ifans appears to be taking his recent split from Sienna Miller on the chin. Talulah Riley, his co-star in his latest movie The Boat That Rocked, says the scruffpot Welsh actor has been in great spirits.

"I don't know what's been in the papers but he was laughing and joking all the time on set," she tells me. "He was just one of the lads, you know. I didn't notice him down or anything."

Riley made her name in the recent St Trinian's film and is sweating on being asked back for a proposed sequel. "Everybody seems to be talking about it at the moment," she adds. "I'm very keen to be in it."

Bad timing for a media funeral

The forthcoming funeral for The Sunday Times's highly respected religious affairs correspondent, Christopher Morgan, is causing problems for his former colleagues.

The service for Morgan, who sadly took his own life a fortnight ago, will be held at Llandaff Cathedral on Friday evening. It will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, at whose wedding Morgan was best man.

The problem is that Friday nights at The Sunday Times, when much of the paper is put to bed, are pretty much sacrosanct. If staff wish to be off that day, management request they take the whole week off.

"It is a real shame," says one of Morgan's former colleagues. "I'm not sure if it was intentional move by the family, but most of us won't be able to go."

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