Pandora: Lembit's loyalty looks likely to be rewarded

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The Independent Online

While senior colleagues have so far steered clear of Lembit Opik's bid for the Liberal Democrat presidency, I hear that his loyalty to his former leader, Charles Kennedy, is now finally paying off.

Opponents have been quick to claim that the flamboyant Montgomeryshire MP, right, has lacked any "big-name" endorsements for his campaign, compared to his main rival Baroness Scott, who counts Vince Cable and Chris Huhne among her backers.

Kennedy has kept his distance from internal party elections since his removal in 2006. However, Opik is now widely seen to have received the Scot's informal backing, via his brother-in-law James Gurling. "I am backing Lembit because loyalty counts," says Gurling, the brother of Sarah Kennedy, who was also Chatshow Charlie's leadership election agent. "When Charles left the leadership Lembit was loyal to him and to the party. At a bad time for the party, Lembit spoke with compassion and honesty."

Opik launched a one-man crusade to save Kennedy when the leadership crisis unfolded in 2006, and made television appeals to dissuade colleagues from wielding the knife. Opik was uncharacteristically tight-lipped when I called: "I can't really comment on this," he said. "I'm getting support from all levels of the party."

Bond's Vesper turns to religion

Sartorial standards slip as Letwin joins Oxford debate

Collins fights against foie gras

Free newspaper war turns litigious

Heavy metal date for Mrs Brown

Channel 4 holds out for a hero

After her turn as the doomed Bond girl Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, Eva Green has given our flagging film industry a further boost by appearing in the British-backed religious thriller Franklyn.

It was an interesting choice of flick to work on, since Green tells me its subject matter was hardly close to her heart.

"No, I'm not religious," the French actress told me at the film's premiere at the London Film Festival. "Not at all. It doesn't worry me though, the idea of a religious backlash,"

According to reports, Daniel Craig spends most of the new Bond film, Quantum Of Solace, moping about after Vesper. Is all the hype surrounding the movie making her nostalgic?

"I'm looking forward to watching it but, er, no, not really," added the 28-year-old, diplomatically.

THE Plummy-voiced Tory MP Oliver Letwin is one of the grander members of the House of Commons, so it was surprising that he should turn up at the Oxford Union woefully under-dressed last week. Letwin (who went to Cambridge) was invited to debate the motion "this house has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government." While his colleague Eric Pickles and Labour MP John Denham took the trouble to wear dinner jackets – as is the norm at the OU – Letwin opted to dress down in a lounge suit.

"I have no ideological objection to evening dress at all. I am told that the Prime Minister does but I do not," he told the audience. "It is simply because I went to a more modern institution than this – a forward-looking place in the Fens rather than this ancient, archaic place. In fact I didn't realise there was a debating society in the country that still wore evening dress. But the Conservative Party is modernising, so maybe you can too."

Phil Collins is following in Sir Roger Moore's Gucci-loafered footsteps by devoting his tea-time years to fighting for animal rights.

The drummer has teamed up with the animal welfare group, Peta, to pen a letter to Selfridges, demanding that it stops stocking foie gras. "As you can imagine, the scientific consensus has to be very strong for a country to ban the production of something but, indeed, foie gras production really is that cruel," Collins writes. "Won't you please dissociate Selfridges from this cruel industry that is opposed by about two-thirds of Britons. Selfridges' reputation is being dragged into the mud, which is tragic and is not something you should allow to happen."

Strong stuff, though Collins has always preferred the written word to get his message across. In August, he was told to pay his third wife Orianne £25m after he allegedly dumped her by fax.

A new war has opened up in the battle between London's free newspapers – and this latest skirmish doesn't involve Rupert Murdoch.

London Lite, the freebie owned by Associated Newspapers, is threatening legal action against a jovial free newsletter called London Shite, which it claims is unfairly using its logo. After some initial resistance, the team behind the satirical publication are thought to be backing down. They are now considering relaunching the title under an even more scurrilous masthead.

While her husband grapples with the country's economic gloom, Sarah Brown has chosen an unlikely event to continue her charm offensive.

Tomorrow night, Mrs Brown is due to attend the London Film Festival for the premiere of Anvil! The Story of Anvil – a documentary about a Canadian heavy metal band.

Why she is so keen to see it is anyone's guess, although I notice that it is directed by the English screenwriter Sacha Gervasi, hitherto best known for fathering Geri Halliwell's daughter Bluebell.

Channel 4 apparently hopes to cash in on the success of the BBC's popular import Heroes by making its own version of the hit US show.

In the Channel 4 programme, The Misfits, it is rumoured that the show's protagonists will be a group of teenagers from London who – please let it happen! – are all in possession of an Asbo.