Pandora: Powell gets his books in order

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Here's a development that is sure to come in handy in the aftermath of this year's election: Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to Tony Blair, has found a publisher for his forthcoming book, aptly titled The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in Modern Britain.

The work – which Powell revealed he was planning in an interview last spring – has just been snapped up for an undisclosed amount by Will Sulkin, publisher at The Bodley Head, who claims it will be a "terrific book... not just for those in charge of UK policy but for anyone who has access to the levers of power."

"No-one is cleverer, funnier or more astute than Jonathan Powell," he explains. "No-one has been closer to the furnace and remained unscorched."

Of particular interest, of course, will be the promised "examples from Powell's experience" (uncharitable souls might suggest that Powell demonstrated his own Machiavellian tendencies in the run-up to the Iraq war), which are to incorporate his exposure to the Blair, Bush and Clinton administrations. Since the work is due to hit shelves in the autumn, it's sure to take the top spot on the must-read lists of MPs looking to exert their influence on both sides of the Commons.

The Hobbit's journey continues

Celebrations in Middle Earth as dates are set to film the Lord of the Rings two-part "prequel" The Hobbit. Its director, Guillermo del Toro, has said he will begin in June.

The news will be a relief to fans of the franchise; until recently its future was uncertain as relatives of the tale's author, J R R Tolkien, squabbled with studio bosses over the film's proceeds. Happily, all is resolved. We can look forward to two more of the interminable films – in cinemas next year and in 2012.

Sir Clive to turn the tables on the press

Exciting news: Cancer Research is to launch a sporting spin-off of their popular "Turn the Tables" event, which lets politicians grill leading journalists in front of several hundred paying guests.

On 18 January, Sir Clive Woodward will be quizzing rugby hack Stephen Jones and Peter Alliss will be interrogating ITV anchorman Steve Rider.

Even better, Pandora readers have the chance to design their own question to be posed. So get writing – there's a bottle of bubbly for the funniest.

Bit old for a pedal car, Boris?

What's this? Boris Johnson is to add to his gilded City Hall team? He's picked none other than Cliff Polton, advocate of adult pedal car racing (a sport more frequently practised by the under-fives). Polton, a former director of the British Pedal Car Grand Prix, claims to have received an invitation from City Hall to help the Mayor of London with his five-year, multimillion-pound strategy for a "Cycle Superhighway". "I'm trying to promote pedal car racing, because it's fun!" he told local reporters. Quite so.

Sam and her boy ready for parenthood

Congratulations to Sam Taylor-Wood. The artist-turned-director has confirmed she is expecting a child with young fiancé Aaron Jones, the star of her recent John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy. The pair have been an item since early last year. "They're expecting a child," confirmed a spokesman. "They're very happy."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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