Pandora: Lawyers show their studs

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The Independent Online

If you think Zinedine Zidane's World Cup Final headbutt was savage, check out the resulting legal quarrels. Marco Materazzi, the Italian recipient of Zidane's forehead that evening, provoked his French opponent into the red card offence. Materazzi walked off with a winner's medal but has since been spraying his lawyers' ink about, disputing what he actually said to Zidane.

The Inter Milan player has won a legal action against The Daily Star after the paper reported he had called Zidane's mother "a terrorist whore". His lawyers crow they have issued proceedings against The Daily Mail and The Sun for similar "abuse". Note: for the record, when Zidane offered him his shirt, Materazzi replied: "I prefer the whore that is your sister." Which is much nicer.

Tories jab Johnson with 'Postman Pat' mind games

As demoralising passive aggressive behaviour goes, it is not perhaps in the Sir Alex Ferguson premier league of "psyching out" opponents – just remember Kevin Keegan's impression of a quivering jelly, or the odd bug-eyed eruption by Arsene Wenger.

All the same, some Tory MPs believe they have found what it takes to flip Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Health, and see him committed to one of his own facilities.

Listen out, next time Johnson steps up to the House of Commons dispatch box, for a barely audible background hum.

Those whose ear canals are not blocked with wax or wiry tufts may be able to detect the strains of a refrain popular at children's teatimes: the theme tune of Postman Pat – that's the 1981 original, "Postman Pat and his black and white cat...", and not the imposting jingle of 2003. "It is too quiet for the mics, but Johnson knows we are doing it and he looks really annoyed," chortles one guilty Conservative MP, who declines to step forward and accept the glory. Perhaps opposing members on the Commons benches could name and shame.

It is all so juvenile, sigh Johnson's white-coated team at the DoH.

"Alan hasn't mentioned it to us," comments one of his advisers. "Maybe when he is at the dispatch box he is concentrating on what he is doing and not on the background noise. And he is very proud of his time working as a postman."

Noble resilience!

Don't bovva with alcopops, Turgoose tells Dave

David Cameron, or any of the other politicians experiencing brain pulses on the subject of teenage drinking, could do worse than invite Thomas Turgoose to Westminster for lunch. (Shepherd's? The Atrium?)

The actor – pictured, centre, as the ankle-biting, impressionable young skinhead star of Shane Meadows's This Is England – is now 16 and happy to share his troubled Grimsby roots with any askers. He seems sceptical that the Conservative Party's plan to levy higher taxes on alcopops and White Lightning will bother his pals.

"I don't think so," Tommo tells Pandora. "Everyone I know drinks cider, we call it 'studder'. It's a quid a bottle. Three bottles of that gets you absolutely paralytic.

"In Grimsby, binge-drinking for 16-year-olds is really really popular. I've done it at house parties and I've had to beg my step-mum – beg, beg, beg – to let me stay out till midnight but then she's had to pick me up at seven because I'm too drunk."

He adds, earthily: "It's good to be able to do that with me normal mates, who don't go on about This Is England and the rest."

Julie's blind faith

Julie Burchill's godly pupation from queen of spleen to Mother Teresa has been arrested. At a time when the faiths need a unifier, a symbolic figure of peace to bring together squabbling disciples, the cantankerous writer consigns her plans for a theology degree to the vestry wastepaper basket.

"I have decided against theology, as I began voluntary work with the mentally handicapped – a better expression of my Christianity than worrying about how many angels could dance on a pinhead," explains Burchill, 48, who two years after quitting journalism (to the relief of her ex-husbands) is to begin writing for The Sun. "I hope to start work with the Royal National Institute of Blind People next month." Which means we will never get that seminal text linking transubstantiation and teenage lesbianism.


Some choice words over at the International Herald Tribune's Paris HQ. Bill Keller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning but under-fire executive editor of sister paper The New York Times, flew in to deliver a pep-talk yesterday. Attendance was mandatory: some staff were recalled from holidays. But then the story broke about the New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's sex take-aways. A giddy Keller hopped on the next plane home. Byeee!

* Berets doffed, please, for royal hack Robert Jobson, whose joyriding of Prince Harry's armoured car around Afghanistan was so successful he is to release a book. Jobbo "has spent months preparing the top secret inside story of how Harry killed dozens of enemy insurgents". Crikey! The paperback Harry's War, £7.99, is out in May.