Pandora: Treasury still servicing Labour's 'love nests'
Friday 07 March 2008
They became known as the "disgrace and favour" residences. David Blunkett charmed the particulars off a blonde estate agent at his taxpayer-funded safe house in South Eaton Place, Belgravia. Meanwhile, at the 18th-century Admiralty House apartments, John Prescott held extended diary meetings with his secretary.
More than two years after Blunkett moved out of the £3m high-security property and No 10 pledged to sell it to boost the Exchequer, no buyer has been found. It remains on the market. The Home Office explains that Blunkett's nest "will be sold in due course".
As for Prezza's rent-free flat overlooking Trafalgar Square: parliamentary answers reveal that taxpayers footed a £3,320 "deep clean" bill when he left last summer. A disgruntled Tory spokesman says: "The occupiers of the grace and favour flats have to pay personally for cleaning when they live there. Tracey Temple's diaries show how the Admiralty House flat was used for sex sessions by the deputy prime minister during their affair."
Mark Malloch Brown, the Africa minister, now occupies that abode; £1,030 has been spent on new curtains, with a further £9,322 on a washing machine, tumble dryer, freezer, taps and repainting the bedroom.
The Conservatives' next questions will ask about the state of the Admiralty House flat occupied by Lord Falconer. "The carpets were dirty," says a mole, "covered in Charlie's red wine stains." A backroom Tory retorts: "At least they were wine stains." Please!
Writing is on the wall for forgers who copy Banksy
The graffitist Banksy is dubbed a "guerrilla artist" for his urban illustrations, some of which are bought by the admiring rich. Like any lucrative brand, though, he must closely guard copyright, or risk loss of value.
Banksy's dealer, Pictures on Walls (POW), has disclosed that a new batch of counterfeit screenprints carrying "authentication" stamps is on the black market. The company has called in trading standards officers to investigate.
In a letter sent to collectors, POW says the forgeries are of the spray works Rude Copper, Laugh Now, Girl With Balloon (pictured), I Fought The Law and Happy Choppers. "They are sold alongside bogus receipts," it warns. "We are happy to check the provenance of your print."
Last year Banksy fakes were sold on eBay. One, Soup Can, fetched £6,000.
"POW cannot comment," said a spokeswoman, "as this could affect the investigation into these forgeries."
Abi to reveal all... again
The perennial lads' mag favourite Abi Titmuss has been quiet of late. How pleasing to report, then, that the lively former nurse is to again launch herself into the world of fine literature (she previously penned the erotic collection Ten Fantasies). Her publisher, Headline, announced yesterday that it is to publish a tell-all memoir, The Secret Diaries Of Abigail Titmuss.
Such a tome would not normally interest Pandora but Titmuss has a few intriguingly deep notches on her bedpost. The book will document her journey from emptying bedpans at University College Hospital to her home movie with John Leslie, once of Blue Peter. ("Here's a sex tape I made earlier...") Titmuss also dated the comic actor David Walliams. Headline promises it will be "scorchingly honest". Solicitors at the ready, then.
Downing Street officials will piddle while public conveniences burn a hole in our wallets. Following yesterday's announcement by the Government that it would let councils charge for use of their town lavatories, the Conservatives became agitated that No 10 is currently installing new urinals for the enjoyment of its gentlemen staff.
Other renovations at the "First Lord's Residence", listed with Westminster council, include a new garden shed, better disabled access, the ripping down of partition walls between offices, and more interestingly, the secretive "Project Silent Night" (accommodation works) and "Project Bombay". The latter turns out, slightly disappointingly, to be "repairs to entrance door".
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