Pandora: McCartney's paymasters come off second best in nuclear battle

When it was revealed last year that Ian McCartney was being paid more than £110,000 a year to advise the American nuclear power giant Fluor – just months after he quit as Trade minister – the pint-sized Scot was accused of filling his boots.

The former Labour Party chairman's involvement came under the spotlight when it emerged that Fluor was part of a consortium bidding for a £5bn contract to take over the running of the Sellafield plant.

See apology, 17 October 2008

Quite how much longer his services will be relied upon, however, remains to be seen. It has been confirmed that Fluor has lost out in the bidding to its British rival Amec. To make matters worse, Amec had recruited McCartney's former colleague, the ex-Sports minister Richard Caborn, whose advisory services came in rather cheaper at £75,000.

What McCartney's role was in assisting Fluor has never been totally clear. The company insists "Wee Macca" had no role in lobbying the Government, while McCartney maintained it had hired his services because of his work with "trade unions over employment regulations and proper business ethics".

He also curiously stated that his fee "was not going to me personally" but would enable him to "maintain an office presence in London".

News of the setback for McCartney's employer is privately being met with little sympathy in the Labour ranks. Says one colleague: "We are already speculating how long they'll now want to keep Ian on."

Noble's mobile mystery

If Ross Noble is wondering what happened to his mobile phone, Pandora might be able to help. A mole was at last weekend's Latitude music festival, when the Geordie comedian went screeching past on his motorbike. "Ross's wheels must have got stuck in the mud because he went flying over the handlebars," I'm told. "I think he was a bit embarrassed as he jumped back on pretty swiftly, without realising he'd dropped his phone. One of the stewards chucked it into the crowd. I suppose it'll be on eBay by now."

Running away just isn't Emily's style

Emily Mortimer, whose blossoming Hollywood career Pandora has been monitoring closely, is fast discovering that movies can be a brutally honest business.

Mortimer, who has landed her first action role alongside Woody Harrelson and Ben Kingsley in the new thriller Transsiberian, has revealed some of her scenes had to be heavily edited by the film's director Brad Anderson.

"They told me I'm not actually that convincing when I'm running," she says. "Brad tells me that he really had to edit the hell out of the scene with me running away in the snow, because I look so bad."

Mortimer, it seems, has been teased about her running action all her life.

"In fact, my friends will make me run for a bus to give themselves a cheap laugh," she adds. "So I really do have to be edited a bit to be a convincing action heroine."

Terry to investigate

Spotted in the lecture halls of London's Centre for Investigative Journalism over the weekend: former Coronation Street actor Nigel Pivaro, who played Jack and Vera Duckworth's wayward son, Terry. He had enrolled on the centre's three-day summer course and was spied among a group attending a talk given by the documentary film-maker John Pilger. Pivaro gave up acting two years ago to become a journalist, and has previously done work for the Manchester Evening News. According to my aspiring muck raker seated in the row behind, Pivaro was "very attentive throughout and was busy taking lots of notes".

Jilted MP fights back

Like any jilted lover still nursing the painful effects of being stung by one of Cupid's arrows, Lembit Öpik needs get up off the canvas.

As noted previously in this column, Öpik has long pinned his hopes on succeeding Simon Hughes as the next Liberal Democrat president, and will be hitting the campaign trail at the party conference in September. Öpik has his work cut out, however, as I hear his rival to the post, Baroness Ros Scott, is already attracting plenty of support. The final result will be announced in November.

"Of course since that Cheeky lass dumped him he's lost an easy photo-op," says an insider. "Though on balance, that might just be a good thing."

Sir Ian admits he's lost the plot

It's hard to know quite what brought Sir Ian McKellen to the premiere of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight, in Leicester Square on Monday evening.

When questioned about the lucrative film franchise, not only was Sir Ian not able to give Pandora the name of a single Batman villain, he'd also never heard of the film's prequel Batman Begins.

"Well I don't know. I've not heard of it," he told me. "What's that? Who was in that one?"

Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson...

"Oh really," he replied, "Oh what a pity, I rather like Liam Neeson, think I might have missed out on something there."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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