Pandora: Kinnock finds a new job (far from Russia)

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The Independent Online

Stephen Kinnock has found himself a new berth, 11 months after getting caught in the centre of a major diplomatic storm which drew parallels with the Cold War.

Kinnock, pictured, the son of the former Labour Party leader Neil, will be moving to Geneva in the new year after being appointed a director of the World Economic Forum, heading up its Europe and Asia division.

It marks the end of a tumultuous year for Kinnock Jnr, who was head of the St Petersburg office of the taxpayer-funded British Council –the Government quango that promotes our cultural ties abroad and is chaired by his old man.

In January, the office was abruptly closed by Russian authorities who accused it of being a front for British spies. Staff were reported to have been intimidated by officials and Kinnock himself was locked up for an hour after being accused of drink-driving.

His new job, after a long association with the council, will certainly help to deflect repeated accusations that the entire Kinnock family owe their employment to the British taxpayer.

Neil Kinnock, who served as the UK Commissioner of the European Commission from 1995 until 2004, is thought to enjoy a comfortable £63,900-a-year EU pension, while his formidable wife, Glenys, earns about £57,000 a year as the firebrand MEP for Wales.

On top of that, their daughter, Rachel, was given a job on Gordon Brown's political staff last year.

Lewis turns charm on Crawford

Leona Lewis's assault on the lucrative American market continues to make inroads. The wholesome British pop/R&B singer recently persuaded the young actor Chace Crawford, star of the hit US show Gossip Girl, to appear in her next music video.

Crawford, pictured, was introduced to Lewis during a recent visit to the capital.

"I met her at a dinner party in London the other day and we really hit it off," he tells me. "I normally like classic rock bands like Oasis, but I'm into her stuff a lot, too. When she called me to ask if I would do it, it was a complete no-brainer."

Last month, I reported that Crawford had been hunting around for a suitable role in the West End.

"As well as everything else, I'm hoping to do some film next year," adds the 23-year-old Texan. "I really don't care about the size of the role – so long as it's a quality director and a good cast."

No pay rise for sitting Tennant

Edward Bennett is walking proof that one man's crisis is another man's opportunity. The 26-year-old actor, pictured, is currently filling in for David Tennant in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet while the Doctor Who star receives treatment for his dicky back.

Despite the standing ovations Bennett has received, it is likely that he is still on a measly understudy's wage. "It may be that his agent has come up with some sort of deal but, otherwise, the agreement we have with the RSC means he would just get paid a fee for being an understudy," says a spokesman for the actors' union, Equity. "He wouldn't have to be paid any extra for performing the lead role."

Hansen gets himself in a Scot of bother

Alan Hansen has found himself on the receiving end of the sort of kicking his Scottish compatriots usually reserve for trooser-wearing southern jessies. The BBC pundit, right, currently appears in Christmas ads for Morrisons supermarket, which offers customers a deal on the Highland malt, Glenmorangie.

Hansen pronounces the whisky with an emphasis on the "an", when, as any true Scot will tell you, it should be made to rhyme with "orangey". "Typical Hansen. He rarely ever showed up for the national side and now this," reckons one. "We've always said he's England's 12th man, and this proves it."

Brown aide jumps ship to New York

News of further upheaval in Downing Street. Gordon Brown's well-groomed foreign affairs spokesman, James Roscoe, is off to New York to take up a UN job. Roscoe, who is married to Spectator writer Clemency Burton-Hill, is the latest to depart from the PM's communications team. Earlier this month, Brown's communications adviser, Nick Stace, resigned after less than a year in the post, while in October the No.10 "head of strategy", Stephen Carter, was shunted off to the Lords.

All work and no play for Peston

Robert Peston's internet blog, Peston's Picks, has gained so much influence during the credit crisis that is seems he now cannot leave it alone. The ubiquitous BBC business editor was up at the sparrow's on Saturday morning, posting one item at 5.02am, while on Sunday he was busily tapping away at 7.20am.

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