Pandora: Lembit hopes to get lucky in new decade

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The Independent Online

What with this being the final Pandora of the decade, readers can rest assured we've well and truly pushed the boat out.

Having resolved to settle for nothing less than a Noughties icon today, you can imagine my delight when column favourite Lembit Opik kindly agreed to break his recent vow of media silence to share his thoughts on the years ahead.

"I suppose what I'm really hoping for is a bit more luck," declares the colourful Lib Dem backbencher and former Cheeky Girl companion, before profoundly adding: "If you put as much money into the great fruit machine of life that I have, you've got to win sometime, surely?"

When it comes to his hopes for the coming decade, the MP is more characteristically upbeat: "By this time in 2019 I would still hope to be MP for Montgomeryshire, be a husband with a perfect family and be preparing to sell the film rights of my life story to Hollywood."

Opik, who is known to have been on strained terms with his party leader Nick Clegg in the past, now assures me relations have warmed in recent months. "My improved relationship with Nick Clegg is one of the sunnier stories of 2009," he declares.

Indeed, the politician, also a trained pilot, is keen to offer his services come election time. "I would be proud to fly my leader," he enthusiastically states.

"It would be a goodwill gesture rather than a suicide pact."

Gummer's tastiest morsel

As former Environment Secretary John Gummer prepares to bid farewell to the House of Commons, misty-eyed colleagues have been recalling what will surely be remembered as his finest hour. Back in 1990, when New Labour spin doctors were still in short trousers, and with the country gripped in mad cow mania, Gummer for one wasn't ready to lie down. Keen to enforce calm across the nation, he insisted on feeding a beef burger to his four-year-old daughter Cordelia in front of the cameras. We surely won't see his like again.

Sir Paul has a fab eye for detail

News that Sir Paul McCartney has been taking issue with the team behind the latest biopic on John Lennon should perhaps come as little surprise.

Having personally intervened to ensure a more favourable representation of Lennon's Aunt Mimi in the newly released Nowhere Boy, he's still said to have been unhappy with other aspects of the film. While director Sam Taylor-Wood might not be getting an invite to the Mull of Kintrye any time soon, it's worth pointing out that young Macca has long been a stickler for historical detail. Following the release of Backbeat, charting The Beatles' early adventures in Hamburg, he was miffed to be the only member not correctly portrayed in a leather jacket.

Balls up at the bookmakers

Whenever talk turns to a future Labour leadership election, Ed Balls's name is a familiar sight on the cast list of would-be contenders. Despite being the modest type I'm sure he is – deep down – Gordon Brown's long-serving henchman might be a trifle sensitive to learn that Ladbrokes, no less, are now quoting him at a whopping 20-1 to land the top job. While I'd like to suggest the news will hastily provoke a stampede in the direction of your local bookies, I fear this would only be misinterpreted as cheap sarcasm on my part.

Rage man wins by his whiskers

Just when it seemed 2009 couldn't get any better for veteran rockers Rage Against The Machine, I bring news of a fresh accolade heading their way. Having already denied Simon Cowell the Christmas No 1, frontman Zack de la Rocha, has now been unveiled as the winner of the prestigious Beard of the Year gong for 2009. Should you still harbour any doubts about the level of competition for this often overlooked honour, I'm duty-bound to add that Sting came, what I'm sure for him was a disappointing third.