Pandora: Politics behind the scenes at Newsnight

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The Independent Online

Nick Robinson's stint fronting Newsnight may have proved a successful experiment at the time of printing, but it seems that he would be wise not to get overly comfortable in the hot seat quite yet.

The BBC's political editor made his presenting debut on the show this week in the absence of regular interrogator Jeremy Paxman. By Tuesday night, he looked firmly at home, courtesy of an entertaining encounter with Lord Mandelson, who proved delightfully ambiguous when questioned about his prime ministerial ambitions.

The arrival of Robinson has surprised many viewers, however – not least because Paxo already had more than able back-up in the form of Gavin Esler, Emily Maitlis and Kirsty Wark. Perhaps understandably sensitive to the danger of a bruised ego or three, a Newsnight spokesman was at pains to clarify that Robinson would not be usurping the aforementioned trio in the foreseeable future, when I called yesterday.

"They are all still going to be used," he hastily assured me.

Indeed, he was even unwilling to confirm whether their current guest presenter would be back at all. "We don't know for certain," I was told. "He is one of a number of presenters who can stand in. He's doing a good job."

Jacko tried to buy Speaker's chair

Not confident with bagging the Beatles' back catalogue, it has now emerged that the late Michael Jackson took a shine to another of our national treasures. The singer's publicity friendly pal Uri Geller reveals that he and the star once enjoyed a private tour of the House of Commons, guided by Lord Janner. Spoon-bending Geller adds that Jackson was particularly taken with the Speaker's chair during his Westminster visit. "Can I sit there?" enquired the King of Pop. "Can I buy it?"

Opik's plea to Clegg: use me

Lembit Opik has been characteristically keen to do his bit for the summer news agenda, courtesy of his frequent photo opportunities with underwear model Katie Green. The unlikely pair claim to be highlighting the dangers of eating disorders, with the politician keen to play down talk of a blossoming romance.

The colourful Lib Dem backbencher confided yesterday, however, that he still feels desperately under-used by Nick Clegg and co. "I'm certainly available to the party in any way they want me, and that's a matter for them," he insisted.

No word from Lib Dem HQ as yet.

Osborne won't be buying a cat yet...

David Cameron was keen to preach against complacency in the Conservative ranks yesterday, and his Shadow Chancellor George Osborne was determined to follow suit. After the sad demise of Alistair Darling's moggy Sybil this week, will his most likely successor at No 11 bring any new furry friends of his own, should the Tories triumph as polls currently suggest? "We haven't won yet," says a cautious Osborne aide. "We're focused on getting through the door. We'll worry about the cat flap later."

Oh lord, Eubank's title up for grabs

For readers with pretensions of grandeur, an historic title is up for grabs. Auctioneers are inviting offers of about £35,000 for the moniker "Lordship of the Manor of Brighton", which is being relinquished by the eccentric retired boxer Chris Eubank after his bankruptcy. I am told it has links to the great feudal Lordship of Lewes, held by the half-brother of William the Conqueror, no less. The auctioneer puts the sale in context, however, saying: "It is simply a money-based bidding war. You don't have to have any special standing."