Pandora: Osborne and Fox feud 'goes back years'

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The Independent Online

It's barely a week since Peter Mandelson was welcomed back to the Government top table and already the Prince of Darkness has stirred up a delightful storm, the sort of which Fleet Street hacks have been missing all those years he's been gone.

On Sunday, the shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, let slip that Mandy had "dripped pure poison" about Gordon Brown into his ear during their date at a taverna in Corfu.

Mandelson countered that Osborne had been none too complimentary about some of his own colleagues, although he refused to disclose any details. Sure enough, however, a juicy titbit appeared yesterday in the arch-Brownite Kevin Maguire's column in The Daily Mirror. Maguire claimed that Osborne had referred to the Tory defence spokesman, Liam Fox, as "a shit". Tory sources tell me the alleged outburst comes as no surprise.

"It is quite true, they have never been able to stand one another," said a friend of Fox. "Liam has said as much about George in private. It goes back years to when George worked for William Hague when he was party leader. He held quite lot of influence over him and Liam hated it. They also clashed during Liam's time as party chairman."

I'm told that allies of Fox, who stood against David Cameron for the leadership in 2005, also privately blamed the Osborne camp for rumours about his private life that surfaced during the contest.

Hucknall sings Sky man's praises

Not long after Tony Blair first took up residence in Downing Street, he invited Noel Gallagher and Vivienne Westwood over for cocktails. The launch of the Sky News political editor Adam Boulton's account of the Blair era, Tony's Ten Years, was a little more low-key, but there was an unexpected appearance by the Simply Red singer – and Labour stalwart – Mick Hucknall, left.

"I have know Adam for ages because of the whole New Labour thing and I have know his wife Anji [Hunter] even longer," Hucknall told me. "I'm very fond of them. They're an extraordinary couple. They have this great banter with each other and Anji is just totally relentless."

Incidentally, Boulton has already been button-holed by Independent columnist Bruce Anderson about the accuracy of one anecdote in the book, which claimed that Anderson once told Alastair Campbell to stop playing the bagpipes at a Labour conference. Apparently, "Brute" would never do such a thing as he regards the agony bags as "sacred music".

Jeremy talks pants

For years, Jeremy Irons's brooding good looks have been setting female hearts aflutter. But when Pandora encountered the gravelly-voiced actor at a recent do, he came across less Casanova, more like Swiss Toni from The Fast Show.

"Acting is a lot like knicker elastic," he informed me at Abercrombie and Kent's charity screening of Un Coeur En Hiver on Tuesday night.

"You look at a nice bottom in denim jeans and you assume that there are knickers there, but you do not want to see the knicker line. I don't want to see it. I just want to feel it. And that's how I feel about acting. I don't want to see it I just want to feel it."

Christmas is cancelled

Thanks to the relocation of Chelsea's training ground, the Surrey town of Cobham is now chock-a-block with Rolex-clad footie players. In spite of this, the town has had to cancel its "Christmas Extravaganza" street parade owing to poor financial support. Surely Roman Abramovich could afford to fork out for a few fairy lights?

Bremner's confusing impression

The credit crunch appears to have zapped even Rory Bremner's gags. "There is a global character crunch," he told the Evening Standard on Monday. "Characters are in short supply. Boris Johnson is the $700bn bailout to impersonators." Remarkably, in Rachel Sylvester's column in The Times on Tuesday, she quipped: "Rory Bremner is in heaven: 'There's a global character crunch,' he told me. 'And we just got a $700bn injection in the form of the king of spin'." A Bremner comedy crunch?

The real sting

Estimated amount Paul Newman made for charity: £125m. Estimated amount People magazine is giving from its 96-page Newman "tribute" issue (at the inflated price of £6): zero.