Pandora: Knives out: Gordon's girls defend their boss

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The Independent Online

Could Gordon Ramsay's luck be changing? Ever since he was accused of liaising with "professional mistress" Sarah Symonds, the boorish chef has been dogged by a string of bad headlines, running the gamut from ready-meals to broken banking covenants.

Last week things got worse, with the prestigious Harden's guide describing his flagship restaurant as suffering "an unprecedented slide" in approval. Now, though, a new voice (or two) has begun to speak up for Ramsay.

Yesterday his two female protégées Clare Smyth and Angela Hartnett – not always known for having the smoothest of relationships – went on the defensive at the launch of the latest Zagat survey, attacking Ramsay's critics as publicity seekers.

"It's a stunt isn't it?" argued Smyth, the head of Ramsay's outpost on the Royal Hospital Road. "It's harsh and very upsetting for those of us who live our whole lives for the restaurants."

"People say that if you're on TV, then you aren't in the kitchen and it lets the restaurant down," added Hartnett. "But that's not the case. It's just that when they like Gordon they like him and when they don't they don't. You can't have it both ways: want to watch him on TV and then criticise him not being in the kitchen."

Very good: pay rises all round!

Faulks's shadow cabinet muse

Much guessing has surrounded the characters of Sebastian Faulks's latest novel. On whom is the critic based? And the lawyer? The drunken hack? More intriguing still, surely, is the young, ambitious politician. Set in a fictionalised Notting Hill, the novel features a young pup on the rise in the Commons and his wife. Who should turn up at Monday's launch party, but George Osborne, Notting Hill resident, young Tory on the rise, and husband of Faulks's fellow-scribbler, Frances Osborne? Coincidence – surely not?

Holmes strays off the wagon

Alas! It seems Eamonn Holmes's much-trumpeted diet has fallen by the wayside. This January the Sky News presenter promised to lose 20lbs with the help of his wife, Ruth, who promised to provide him with a packed lunch each day. "I started the New Year with the feel-good factor, practising everything in moderation, with plenty of exercise and sleep," a (noticeably slimmer) Holmes told us at Monday's TV Choice awards.

"But, by now, I'm not exactly devout, I admit."

"I've put myself in charge of cracking the whip," added Ruth. "We've been in Portugal for a few weeks, and the diet slipped so I'll have to get back to it."

Punctuation lesson from the BBC

What's this? A clip of BBC World News has appeared online under the headline "funniest blooper ever". It shows a sharp-suited Jonathan Charles delivering an ill-punctuated news bulletin ("this is BBC World News, I'm Jonathan Charles, kept hidden for almost two decades and forced to bear children..."). Amusing stuff – though not as amusing as the fact that it has been posted by the head of the Beeb's economics and business unit, Jeremy Hillman. "It's a lesson on the importance of punctuation and breathing," he says.

Duncan the dragon under fire

Duncan Bannatyne has little truck with those who criticised his holiday plans this summer. The irritable tycoon was roundly pilloried for his decision to holiday in a private villa on the French Rivera at the same time as promoting British tourism for his TV show, The Great British Holiday. The harsh words haven't, however, given him pause for thought. "I just think it is amazingly silly," he grumbles to Pandora. "The papers got completely the wrong end of the stick." Touchy!