Pandora: Yes, minister: A ribbing for Byrne
Thursday 20 November 2008
Poor Liam Byrne has put up with his fair share of flak this week, after details of his demands on civil servants were leaked to the media at the weekend.
Apparently, the newly-promoted Cabinet Office minister provided staff with an 11-page instruction manual back in 2006, complete with advice on what type of coffee he prefers and how he likes his papers arranged.
Sadly for Byrne, the ribbing is far from finished: his fellow Labour MP Tom Harris has decided to rub salt in the wounds by publishing his own tongue-in-cheek list of orders on his blog. Under the headline "Understanding the Joy of Tom", Harris, who was sacked as transport minister last month, requests deep-fried Mars bars ("in large quantities before, during and after every meeting") and chips ("optional") as well as briefing colleagues on his other personal habits. "If I appear to faint at the despatch box, don't panic: this is simply a clever strategy I have devised for avoiding difficult questions," he writes.
He also threatens to answer the phone in a "fake foreign accent" if bothered at the weekend.
For his part, Harris claims that the temptation to poke fun at Byrne, the MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, was simply too great. "I just thought it was such a comedy opportunity," he tells me.
Wyman can turn stones into treasure
Who would have guessed it? Bill Wyman, the Rolling Stones' legendary bass guitarist and renowned ladies' man, has been exposed as a closet archaeology nut. So much so that the Culture Minister Barbara Follett has hailed him as being partially responsible for the boom in amateur bounty-hunters across the country.
"You wouldn't think it but he's an obsessive treasure finder," she informed guests at the launch of this year's annual Treasure Report.
So dedicated is the rock veteran that he has created his own website about the topic, complete with a detailed breakdown of his "signature metal detector" which, handily, fans can order online for the tidy sum of £125. That's certainly one way of seeking treasure, Bill.
Clegg joins the political fringe
Nick Clegg's new barnet has been turning heads in the House of Commons this week. The Liberal Democrat leader has abandoned the floppy, Hugh Grant-esque style of old for a new, altogether more cutting-edge look, complete with an on-trend short fringe – and Pandora, for one, is a fan.
Clegg's staff, however, are quick to assure me that their man does not have expensive tastes when it comes to the upkeep of his locks, and any nods to fashion are a mere coincidence.
"He just went to a barber's shop in Putney – no top hair salons or anything.
"He just wanted it shorter, that's all – and I'm certainly not going to say how much it cost."
Skinner raps at Sadler's door
Damon Albarn isn't the only pop star to experiment with more esoteric pursuits, it seems.
Following the success of the Blur frontman's move into opera, Mike Skinner of The Streets is preparing a surprise composition to perform at the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London this Saturday as part of a concert organised by the youth charity Ctrl.Alt.Shift.
I'm told we can expect a move away from Skinner's typical urban rap music into previously uncharted territories.
Incidentally, it has been widely reported that The Streets' latest album is their last.
Oddie's not fussed about deadlines
Fans shouldn't expect the next book from Bill Oddie to hit shops in time for Christmas – either this year or next.
The gregarious bird-watcher tells me he is still a long way from completing his next promised work, and he has no plans to get his skates on anytime soon.
"I have wangled a rather hefty advance out of the publisher, so I'm in no hurry now!" he explained.
Jerry's a long way from home
Texan-in-exile Jerry Hall was a keen supporter of Barack Obama during the US presidential campaign, making the effort to cast her vote from abroad. Of less interest, clearly, were the political inclinations of her fellow Texans, who voted in favour of the other candidate.
"Did they really?" she says when I mention it. "I didn't know that."
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