Pandora: Opik puts himself through a spin cycle

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The Independent Online

In his current attempt to garner some form of political credibility, Lembit Opik is dipping into his own pocket in the hope of succeeding Simon Hughes as President of the Liberal Democrats.

A month before the elections take place, Opik has enrolled the swanky PR outfit Bell Pottinger to spearhead his campaign. Richard Clein, who heads the company's Liverpool operation, is spinning on his behalf.

"I've known Lembit for 15 years so it seemed like a good combination," says Clein, "an established brand and someone he knows who is also a Lib Dem supporter. Lembit is a serious politician who has held a number of portfolios and who can attract new people to the Liberal Democrats." The move is likely to raise eyebrows among Lib Dem supporters. Opik's presidential rival, Baroness Ros Scott, hasn't felt the need to appoint an Alastair Campbell, nor is she likely to have the slush fund garnered from lucrative glossy magazine deals like Opik has.

"He has said in the past that he is king of the media so I'm surprised he needs it," Scott told me yesterday. "I won't be needing a PR though, as I've got nothing to spin."

The first public relations obstacle Mr Opik had to overcome emerged yesterday, when The Sun claimed he would be appearing on the next series of Celebrity Big Brother.

Opik claimed the story was news to him, saying with some disdain: "I'm afraid I am not interested."

Financial crisis? Send for Bruno

There was excitement in Westminster yesterday with news that actor Ron Silver is planning to drop in on Portcullis House next week. Silver, who plays Jed Bartlett's presidential campaign adviser Bruno Gianelli in The West Wing, is due to address the foreign affairs think-tank the Henry Jackson Society on Wednesday.

Unlike some of his Hollywood peers, Silver is no political lightweight. A committed Democrat, he serves on a number of US political committees.

"We thought that what with the US election and the economic crisis, it is a good time to listen to someone with such a unique insight," says a spokesman. "And he's a celebrity, of course."

Silver is not the first West Winger to swing by Westminster. John Spencer, who played the president's chief of staff Leo McGarry, was invited to No 10 for a powwow with his character's opposite number in Tony Blair's office, Jonathan Powell.

Will fur be flying chez Ecclestone?

There will, I hazard, be a frank exchange of views when Bernie Ecclestone breaks bread with his daughters, Tamara and Petra, in weeks to come.

Last week, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) excitedly announced that 24-year-old socialite and model Tamara would be the "face" of the group's latest ad campaign. Meanwhile, her sister, 19, is to host a launch party tonight for a new clothing range at Harrods – a long-term bête noire of the animal rights lobby because it sells fur.

Tamara, whose name is noticeably absent from the guest list, will be sure to have words about the choice of venue, given Peta's views on Mohammed Al Fayed's famous grocery store.

"We have had quite a lot of involvement against Harrods in the past concerning both foie gras and fur," says Peta. "We have requested meetings with them. Unfortunately they have refused."

Store loses its poetic licence

Roger McGough, the proud Liverpudlian poet, attended Tuesday's launch of the The Really Useful Grandparents' Book at Daunt Books in London's Fulham Road, but faced the ignominy of discovering it didn't stock any of his tomes. McGough was sent to find a copy of his work for Anne Robinson, but returned empty-handed. "Shame," sighed Robinson, "I was going to get him to sign it."

The judges' new robes

To mark the beginning of the new legal year, designer Betty Jackson has fitted Her Majesty's top judges and QCs out in natty new clobber. All very exciting, but Bar Council Chairman Timothy Hutton QC told a reception in Chancery Lane on Tuesday that not all the outfits were ready. For now, judges are having to cobble together a combination of the old and the new.

Parky catches the early Bird

The cricket umpire Dickie Bird has, at 75, lost none of his obsessive punctuality. Bird, who once turned up five hours early for a match, did not want to be late for the launch of Michael Parkinson's autobiography at the Belvedere restaurant in London's Holland Park on Tuesday. Parky – found his guest wandering the gardens when the bash kicked off at 7pm. He'd been there since 5.30pm.