Pandora's People to Watch

Pandora spent last year keeping a beady eye on the good, bad, and downright despicable. Here, in a spirit of eager anticipation, are 25 people who will shape our 2006
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The Independent Online


Ken Livingstone. It won't be long before the Mayor of London is hauled up before the Standards Board for likening a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard. As I first revealed, the incident was caught on tape. If that's enough to swing the case, Mayor Ken could be suspended from office. I doubt he'd go quietly.

David Cameron. A year ago, I reported Westminster rumours that Michael Howard was behind a Spectator article attacking his then shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, as part of an attempt to promote David Cameron as Howard's successor. Later, I revealed that Cameron's wife, Samantha, was pregnant with their third child. A first - and hopefully not last - scoop on the Boy Wonder of British politics.

David Davies. Not the failed Tory leadership contender, but the new MP for Monmouth, who is gaining a reputation as a backbench maverick. To celebrate his election victory in May, he bought a shotgun. Later, he declared himself a "gypsy," in order to counter accusations of racism. Who knows what 2006 will bring?

Christopher Grayling. The shadow Leader of the House earned his spurs in 2005, masterminding the investigation into David Blunkett's business interests that led to his downfall. Grayling's eye is now on a bigger prize. His crack team of Tory backbenchers is now looking at the luxury gifts given to Tony Blair by other world leaders.

Jack Straw. The Foreign Secretary has reported Pandora to the Press Complaints Commission after I revealed controversy over his sister Suzy's involvement in a public "circle dancing" performance called " Encircling the land with sacred dance" at Brecon Cathedral. Mr Straw believes this to be an "unwarranted intrusion" into her private life. I reckon not. Bring on the hearing!

Culture vultures

Andrew Motion. Friends reckon it's a matter of time before Motion takes part in literary London's wedding of the year. Sarah Miano, a twenty-something blonde and former student of the Poet Laureate at the University of East Anglia is tipped to become the second Mrs Motion. She shares his passion for fly-fishing. He's a vociferous supporter of her fledgling literary career.

Nicholas Serota. The Tate director spent 2005 up to his elbows in elephant dung, following his decision to purchase Chris Ofili's installation The Upper Room for £705,000. The Government is now taking an interest in the affair; don't be surprised if the likeable Serota decides to throw in the towel, should the heat rise further.

Kazuo Ishiguro . His last novel, Never Let Me Go, was one of the hits of 2005. A film, The White Countess, will be the last ever Merchant Ivory production, following the sad death of Ismael Merchant. Ish recently told me that his script was "heavily censored" by authorities in China, where it was filmed. Expect fireworks once the Bejing thought-police see the finished version.

Alan Bennett. Having abandoned principled opposition to Rupert Murdoch to star at the Times Cheltenham Literary Festival, Bennett became involved in one of the great literary scandals of 2005. Members of the London Library in St James's Square accused him of writing a graphic complaint in the "suggestion book" about the gentlemen's lavatory failing to flush properly. We're still waiting for a formal denial.

Stella Vine. Headline-prone young painter "discovered" by Charles Saatchi in 2004. Has since pursued an ill-fated collaboration with the gallery owner Tim Jefferies; also close to George Michael's art-dealer partner, Kenny Goss. The celebrity subjects of her paintings will ensure she continues to make waves in 2006.

Media magnates:

Geordie Greig. The Tatler editor marked 2005 by persuading the Duchess of York's teenage daughter, Princess Beatrice, to pose in her scanties. Don't rule him out for the editorship of The Spectator - if his reputation can survive my recent revelation concerning his friendship with Jeffrey Archer.

Piers Morgan. In October, I revealed that Morgan would not be called to give evidence in the City Slickers trial. This year, the former Mirror editor will have another crack at prime-time TV, alongside Simon Cowell and Fern Britton in an X Factor-style talent show.

Andrew Neil. The Barclay brothers' representative on Earth will play a key role in deciding the vacant editorships of both The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph. But can Brillo's manly reputation survive my revelation that he's had his teeth bleached for television?

Richard Littlejohn. The pugnacious columnist is the subject of a football-style transfer war between The Sun and the Daily Mail. Went to the High Court in October, but prevented from writing for his new paper, the Mail, until 2006. That's a lot of anger being bottled up.

David Blunkett. Acknowledged the end of his political career, and start of a life as a 21st- century media "shellebrity" when he was signed by The Sun to replace Littlejohn. Will now be courted by the makers of Celebrity Big Brother or, if that's beneath his dignity, I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

Old friends

Nicholas Parsons. Last year, Pandora successfully persuaded Paul Merton to get the likeable TV host a spot presenting Have I Got News For You. This year, I'm looking for him to crack the prime-time market.

Gordon Ramsay. When a controversialist of Ramsay's standing says he's writing his memoirs, you know there'll be fireworks. After a six-figure deal (first reported here), his book is out in the summer. In terms of potential tiffs, the sky's the limit.

Marco Pierre White. Anything Gordon can do, Marco can do better. His autobiography is scheduled to come out at the same time as Gordon's. Expect a different gloss on the two superchefs' legendary falling out.

Sian Lloyd. Her wedding to the Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik will be a Hello! magazine highlight of 2006. Let's hope that (unlike last time) Opik remembers to include details of their commercial arrangement in the Register of Members Interests.

Jeremy Paxman. Anyone who - in the space of a few months - calls his boss "clearly insane," cries over his ancestors, and describes his profession as "overpaid and undersubscribed," is clearly riding for a fall. That's why we love him.

Beautiful people

Take That. OK, so not strictly a person. More like four people. But, sans Robbie, the biggest boy-band of the 1990s is back in business. I for one intend to get to the bottom of rumours of an affair between Jason Orange and the veteran singer Lulu.

Scarlet Johansson. Hollywood star who has caught the eye of London's adopted son, Woody Allen. Johansson spent the last two summers in Blighty, where she has become matey with - among others - Prince and Princess Michael of Kent's frisky son, Lord Frederick Windsor. How does she rate her hosts? "None of the British journalists had seen the film and they were all asking me the dumbest questions," she said recently. Charming!

Siobhan Hewlett. Fluttered on to Pandora's radar last summer, when she told me about her first nude role (in the BBC's Elizabeth I drama, The Virgin Queen, for which "the props guy had made me a G-string out of gaffer tape." Since then, Hewlett made a critically acclaimed debut at the Donmar Warehouse, landed herself a Hollywood agent, and is currently filming Irina P with Marianne Faithfull. She is only 22: watch this space.

Liz Hurley. What is the point of Liz Hurley? Who cares, when every flutter of her eyelashes launches a newspaper headline. Fleet Street expects Hurley to marry her Indian fiancé Arun Nayar in the next couple of months. Before Christmas, their lawyers went into action against a posh London travel agent who were running "Hurley-themed" package tours to the Indian luxury hotel where they're supposed to be getting hitched.

Steve Coogan. This will be the year of Alan Partridge: the movie. How do I know? Because Coogan told me. "The film will revolve around an al-Qa'ida siege," he said. "It won't fall foul of the religious hatred law, though, because, as always, the joke will be Alan."