Pandora: The day I outed Hague as 14-pint binge boozer

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The Independent Online

Almost a decade after William Hague's ill-fated claim that he sank 14 pints a day in his youth, the man behind the scoop now admits to some remorse.

The former Conservative leader made the disastrous boast back in 2000 during an interview with Nicholas Coleridge for GQ magazine. The resulting derision was a nail in the coffin of Hague's unlikely prime ministerial aspirations.

With Hague again featured in the magazine's latest edition, Coleridge, now managing director of GQ's publisher Condé Nast, recalls his eventful encounter with the MP for Richmond in Yorkshire. "He began telling me about his holiday job delivering John Smith's bitter from the brewery to the working men's clubs of Barnsley and Rotherham," Coleridge explains. It was at this point that a misty-eyed Hague told of "having a pint at every stop" before mentioning the infamous figure of 14. "I could feel the excitement rising up my spine," recalls Coleridge. "I tried to look impassive, not wanting to alert him. I dreaded the words, 'That bit's off the record'."

Not that Coleridge's conscience has been entirely clear since then. "Was it helpful to his cause? No, it wasn't, and I felt guilty about that," he remarks. "Whenever our paths cross, as they do from time to time, he always makes a joke about it in his broad Yorkshire accent."

And Coleridge, for one, still believes Hague's claim. "He is a muscular guy and I never doubted him for a moment," he insists.

Friel fights shy of her own publicity

*Anna Friel confesses that a recent attempt to keep tabs on her press cuttings proved more trouble than it was worth. The publicity-sensitive actress, right, had a Google Alert installed on her family computer, ensuring that newly published articles were automatically fired her way.

"I completely forgot about it until these emails started popping up," she tells Easy Living magazine. "There can be great comments, but read just one negative thing and that's all you can think about. So I had to be strict and say 'Get that thing off!' "

Vaizey: not much of a pop-picker

*Having stuck the boot into Radio 1, the Shadow broadcasting minister Ed Vaizey appeared reluctant to give the national broadcaster an inch yesterday.

Following his call at the weekend for the long-running BBC station to be sold off, Pandora naively attempted to strike a conciliatory note, enquiring whether the fresh-faced politician, 41, would like to share any fond Radio 1 memories of his own. Was he, perchance, more of a Simon Bates man than Dave Lee Travis?

Nothing to report back as yet, but I remain hopeful.

Punk meets prog down Lydon way

*Ever since he agreed to advertise a leading butter brand, fans of the punk icon John Lydon could be forgiven for wondering just what middle age has done to their snarling hero.

Now, the man who once successfully fronted a Cromwellian-style purge of bloated Seventies rockers has been unhelpfully outed as a fan of that era's most derided musical phenomenon.

"Me and John are neighbours," explains veteran prog rocker Keith Emerson, long renowned for his own excessive on-stage antics. "I first met him at an LA charity event. I thought he'd stick his fingers down his throat, but he said, 'It's f****** great that you stick knives in your organ.' We've done lunch. I'd like to make an album with him: punk meets prog."

Not a tweet from Mandy on blogging

*He may be revelling in the excitable speculation about his career plans, but it seems Lord Mandelson will be keeping his daily adventures under wraps. The former Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson has suggested we would benefit from hearing the First Secretary's regular insights via the social networking site Twitter. Mandy, however, is less keen. His spokesman said the politician was "enthusiastic about new forms of digital communication" but sadly offered no indication that the Prince of Darkness would be offering a single tweet.

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