Pandora: Peter sets a date for Mandela biography

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The Independent Online

After several lengthy delays, it appears that Peter Hain's long awaited biography of Nelson Mandela is finally headed for the bookshelves.

We're told that the well-sunned Welsh Secretary – a long-time acquaintance of the former South African president thanks to his anti-Apartheid campaigning – has decided upon next September for the book's publication.

"It's definitely nearly done," we're told. "There have been lots of proofs and manuscripts being couriered to and from the office, and he's been doing it in his spare time."

Hain began work on the tome back in the summer of 2008, after resigning his job as Work and Pensions Secretary over donations made to his deputy leadership campaign. He received an £8,000 advance from the Octopus Publishing Group and publication was slated for mid-2009, though after he rejoined the Cabinet, things seemed to stall.

Along with a planned speaking tour, Hain's biography appeared to have been placed on the back burner, with Octopus claiming that they "couldn't guarantee" any particular release date. Happily, the hitch was temporary – and the book should be on shelves just in time for the next Christmas rush.

Bernie's ghost of scandals past

*The festive spirit takes a curious form in the Christmas card sent out by Formula One maestro Bernie Ecclestone. It features a specially commissioned cartoon showing assorted leading lights of the sport waving farewell to Max Mosley as he sails off into the sunset. Such goodwill! No matter that the waters around the former F1 chief are infested with sharks, and ex-Renault boss Flavio Briatore (who in court blamed his life ban on Mosley's desire for "revenge") is pictured aiming a torpedo squarely at him.

Rufus's opera goes very Wells indeed

Hats off to Rufus Wainwright, whose first foray into opera looks set to confound the sceptics.

Prima Donna, which tells the tale of a fading singer attempting a comeback, premiered at the Manchester International Festival in July, and has just been announced as the latest addition to the Sadler's Wells spring calendar.

Wainwright – the son of folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III – has hitherto limited himself to the world of pop. His opera was originally commissioned by New York's Metropolitan Opera, but was abandoned following a dispute over Wainwright's decision to write in French. Now, with a spot on one of the world's most prestigious stages, it looks like the singer-songwriter may be having the last laugh.

Boris's spinner heads to the east

*News from the east, now, as we hear that James McGrath, former adviser to Boris Johnson, has found a new berth. McGrath, who was forced out of his job after suggesting Caribbean Londoners "could go if they don't like it here", has, apparently, been at work in Sri Lanka spinning for the opposition ahead of next month's elections. "He'll be working there over Christmas," we're told. Let's hope he doesn't step on any toes. During an interim job in the Maldives, he was forced to hire a bodyguard after being threatened with deportation.

Lily the recluse? Could've fooled us

*Whatever is this? Lily Allen – Pandora's long-serving favourite foul-mouthed popette – is poised to forsake the fame game for a life of relative obscurity. Or so it seems.

The surprising announcement is made in this week's Grazia, which boasts Allen – faux-fur-clad in fetching festive get-up – posing on the front cover. "I'm saying goodbye to fame," she claims in the headline. Of course, it needn't fall to Pandora to point out the irony of her unlikely message's medium.

Still, nit-picking.