Pandora: Wanted: a trio of people to replace Lord Cashpoint

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The Independent Online

Now that Labour's silver-quiffed fund-raiser Lord Levy has all but burned his bridges with the party, the hunt is on to find his successor. Party bosses are currently advertising for two "high-value" fund-raising officers, as well as an assistant, who might be able to entice any big hitters willing to part with their cash and help it out of its latest financial woes.

The key purpose of the jobs, according the advertisements, will be "the identification, recruitment and relationship development of donors giving a minimum of £1,000 to the Labour Party".

The "relationship development of donors" of course, ran into severe trouble during the so-called "cash for peerages" row which resulted in Lord Levy's departure.

The move comes after it was suggested this weekthat the party is in severe financial dire straits. According to reports, Labour has just five weeks to stump up £7.45m to pay off loans from banks and wealthy donors, recruited by Levy, while a reputed £6.2m more will be needed to be paid back before the end of the year to avoid insolvency.

As if to illustrate how tight things are financially, the ad also stipulates that the new fund-raisers will be paid an annual salary of no more than £33,000 in return for turning around the party's financial affairs.

If there is anyone out there up for a particularly challenging couple of years, the closing date for applications is next Friday.

Wall Street shuffle is the Marshall method

Despite occupying the persona of an overgrown teenager, the actor Kris Marshall took a "method" approach worthy of a Hollywood veteran to his latest role.

In preparation for his current run on the West End stage in Neil LaBute's Fat Pig, Marshall – who found fame in the BBC sitcom My Family – ventured all the way to the United States. "Well I went to New York actually – to Wall Street," he told me at the play's opening night at the Trafalgar Studios this week. "I wanted to see how people talked, how jocks talk and walk. I mean he's a real jock my character. It seemed the perfect place to go."

It is a marked contrast to his co-star – Robert Webb of Peep Show fame – who, when I asked whether he had worked out for scenes in which he is required to take off his shirt, replied: "No, no, I've never seen the inside of a gym in my life."

Lembit's just plane funny

Ever the shrinking violet, Lembit Opik just can't wait for his upcoming appearance alongside rocker Johnny Borrell.

Next Tuesday, the Liberal Democrat matinee idol is due to take the stage at the London Science Museum with the Razorlight frontman, where they will appear in a one-off gig to support Friends of the Earth's climate change campaign.

"I'm just pleased I can help him out," says Opik, who I'm told is a keen harmonicist. "I'm sure he'll be rather excited to have his profile increased by performing alongside someone like me."

Sharp as a fox, he's chosen for them to play an ironic rendition of Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver.

Bit of a Staite

No sooner has London's new Mayor, Boris Johnson, got his feet firmly under the desk at City Hall than the Conservative leader, David Cameron, has nabbed back one of his best footsoldiers.

Among those drafted in to sharpen up BoJo's campaign team at the start of the year was the Tory staffer Ed Staite, who, as his official spokesman, was given the unenviable task of keeping Boris's foot firmly out of his mouth.

Although Staite was expected to remain in City Hall at the helm of the Mayor's press office, I am told that Cameron has recently ordered him to take control of the forthcoming by-election in Johnson's old Henley seat.

Says one colleague: "Poor Ed. He feels as though he has just let go of his child's hand and allowed him to cross the road alone for the first time."

Sir Howard makes a trunk call

The Institute of Contemporary Arts' forthcoming 60th anniversary could throw up a few surprises. As part of the celebrations, it is holding an auction of new works by some the country's leading artists.

One of the highlights of the auction promises to be Sir Howard Hodgkin's portrait of the ICA's modish artistic director, Ekow Eshun.

According to this month's The Art Newspaper, the saucy Hodgkin reportedly requested Ekow attend the sittings clad in nothing but a pair of packet-bashing Speedo swimming trunks.

"Pure speculation!" cries a red-faced spokesman for the ICA when I call. "Certainly the first I've heard of it, anyway."