Pandora: Lembit looks for star comfort

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The Independent Online

Lembit Opik's encounter with Piers Morgan for GQ magazine was, by common consent, a most unfortunate one for the Liberal Democrat MP. Among the highlights of the tête-à-tête was Opik's potentially embarrassing description of his Cheeky Girl fiancée sharing a bed with her sister. "Liberalism is not just something I put on a ballot paper," he declared.

Opik remains strangely adamant that he came out the winner. "The biggest clanger came from Piers himself," he tells us. "He said my grandfather was an astrologer, when he was actually an astronomer. Mistaking an astrologer for an astronomer is like mistaking Piers for a journalist rather than a TV pundit.

"If I was an astrologer I'd be a predicting a red face for Piers!"

'Matchmaker' Mercer tipped for Davis campaign

David Davis may have Labour rebels queuing up to support his surprise by-election campaign, but his angry Tory colleagues have been rather less forthcoming.

Not for much longer, it would seem, as at least one former member of the Tory front benches is preparing to head for Davis's Haltemprice and Howden constituency to throw his weight behind the former shadow Home Secretary.

The ex-shadow Defence Minister Patrick Mercer – who was memorably axed by David Cameron last year following his forthright comments on racism in the Army – is, I am told, being lined up to play a "key part" in Davis's campaign.

"Matchmaker" Mercer is already said to have played a hand in securing his old Army pal Colonel Tim Collins – famous for his rousing speech before the Iraq invasion – a place in the Davis's campaign. It was Mercer, also a former military officer, who first introduced the pair several years ago.

"David and Patrick have always got along well together, and it's well known that Patrick will do anything he can to help, even if the party leadership disapproves," insists one Davis ally. "David respects Patrick's judgment, so they should definitely prove an effective team."

For his part, Mercer is keeping his cards close to his chest: "I haven't been asked yet," the Newark MP insisted yesterday. "But I am fascinated by David Davis's decision. There's no doubt it's a highly principled one."

Piper tones down'Call Girl' sex scenes

Billie Piper's second turn in the ITV hit show, Secret Diary of a Call Girl may be somewhat less raunchy than viewers are expecting. The former pop star and Doctor Who actor, who plays high-end escort Belle du Jour in the show, caused sensation during the first series with her racy antics.

However a source on the set informs Pandora that Piper has allegedly requested several sex scenes be toned-down this time, asking for some of the dirtiest to be cut altogether.

Currently settling happily into married life with Laurence Fox, the youngest member of the famously thespian Fox dynasty, she is expecting the birth of her first child later this year.

The crew have already had to bring filming forward to accommodate the star's pregnancy, with widespread reports of a body-double being called in.

The ITV press office pleads ignorance. When quizzed on this latest development, they promised the show would be just as smutty as before. "That's the nature of the beast," said one spokesperson. "Plenty of sex."

Mark's farcical speech

Guests at the Tony Awards were left baffled this weekend as Mark Rylance, who won the night's best actor award, treated them to a less-than-conventional acceptance speech.

Rather than the usual tears, dedications and platitudes, Rylance, who won for his portrayal of Robert the randy tourist in a revival of Sixties farce Boeing-Boeing, embarked on a detailed and incongruous description of what one should wear on various occasions.

"When you are in town, wearing some kind of uniform is helpful," he began, "policeman, priest, etc ... Driving a tank is very impressive, or a car with official lettering on the side. If that isn't to your taste you could join the revolution, wear an armband, carry a homemade flag tied to a broom handle ..." Only later did guests twig that he was quoting the Minnesota poet Louis Jenkins.

Face the facts

Brian May would like it to be known that he is absolutely, unequivocally not on Facebook. As he writes in his (very own, daily-updated, self-proclaimed "soapbox" of a) blog: "I do not have a Facebook page, and definitely do not intend to start one. So if you see someone on Facebook, claiming to be me, be assured that it is not me. Love, Bri."

* Tony Blair may have been one of Britain's longest-serving prime ministers, but a decade at No 10 and a burgeoning property portfolio are clearly not enough to become the face of Oxford University. Indeed, Mr Blair is conspicuously absent from his former college's new leaflets. Not so his latter-day imitator David Cameron, whose beaming mug can be seen in the far left-hand corner.