Pandora: Purnell's plans seem a little familiar...

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The Independent Online

A sense of déjà vu has descended on Pandora following James Purnell's much-trumpeted announcement that alcoholics "might" be deprived of benefits if they fail to seek treatment. Have we heard this once before?

Certainly the plans bear a striking resemblance to those outlined in December, in a Department for Work and Pensions white paper. A more cynical observer might just suggest that this week's announcement was a hasty stab at generating new headlines, amid the all-enveloping fog that is Smeargate.

"Er, well... I'm not about to say if we were doing it for the headlines am I?" comes the defensive response from the DWP press office. "We have already done quite a bit on this. And we see the value of what we've done already and we want to do some more. So we have announced 21 pilot schemes specifically dealing with alcoholics. Earlier, we were looking at alcoholics, homeless people and ex-offenders."

Mmm. Wholly original then. Perhaps next Mr Purnell could announce a nationalised health service?

Sienna's back in 'Vogue'

Heart-warming news, now, as we hear that Sienna Miller is, once again, the subject of Anna Wintour's favour. The pair fell out, you may remember, following an unfortunate little incident in which the contrary editor of American Vogue invited Miller to pose for a cover shoot, only to publicly brand her – of all horrors – "toothy" in the resulting pictures. Clearly, Sienna isn't one to hold a grudge, as rumour suggests that she has agreed to pose for another Vogue cover, due to grace news stands in June.

Kelvin (wisely) keeps his head down

Pandora was most disappointed not to hear from Kelvin MacKenzie on Wednesday. After all, it's usually around this time of year that his foot starts slowly heading towards his mouth.

The former Sun editor – who famously refused to apologise for his scathing coverage of the Hillsborough disaster, only to be forced to by Rupert Murdoch, and then to take it back – didn't appear to be taking calls when Pandora attempted to ring. Yesterday's Sun, however, was all contrition. "Two minutes' silence just isn't enough," blared one headline. "The worst sport disaster ever," screeched another. Curiously, no mention of Kelvin there either – or of his two-way apology.

Marr's sudden vanishing act

Curious goings-on on at Jeremy Lee Associates, the up-market after-dinner speaking agency favoured by moonlighting politicians and celebrities. Andrew Marr, until recently one of the firm's most-advertised clients, appears to have vanished from their online brochure.

"Yes," observes Marr when Pandora calls. "There was a bit of a kerfuffle about certain more well-known BBC figures doing things that could be seen to be commercial like that. Personally, I've got no problem doing the speaking so long as I don't breach any rules on impartiality or endorsements.

"But since I only do a very small number of things – I'm really so busy filming – we agreed that I shouldn't be advertised online. I didn't realise I was still up there until a friend raised the issue so I rang them up and they kindly removed me."

How considerate! Pandora simply cannot fathom why they were so reluctant to explain that themselves. So far we've been met by an eerie silence at every turn.

Watson goes quiet

Tom Watson has been keeping schtum as to his own shadowy role in the McBride affair, leaving his lawyers to deal with the press.

His usually hyperactive blog has followed suit. While the self-styled "proper blogger" tends to record his day-to-day dealings in near-mundane detail ("25 books I've read in the last two years that have influenced, interested or amused"), a whole week has passed without a single word. Users continue to be greeted by a tooth-grindingly cute video of a rabbit, wishing everyone a "bright and gay" Easter.