Pope must decide if he wants Cherie as adviser

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The Independent Online

* She was granted a surprise audience with the Pope only earlier this year. Now Pandora learns that moves are afoot from within the Holy See to reinforce Cherie Booth QC's links to the Vatican.

A senior Vatican insider discloses that the Prime Minister's other half, a devout Roman Catholic, has been discreetly approached about joining the prestigious Pontifical Academy Of Social Sciences, to sit as one of its resident academicians, advising the church on social and legal issues.

Her appointment to the institution, established 12 years ago, still requires the approval of the Holy Father, whom she met for a brief 10-minute audience back in April. (She proceeded to breach Vatican protocol in the process, by arriving dressed in white rather than the required black.)

Mrs Blair had a Catholic education before gaining a First Class law degree, topping her Bar class. She is a founding member of London's Matrix Chambers, specialist in human rights law.

"With her human rights experience, she could play an important role," the source says. She already has links with the Academy, having attended a meeting in Rome in the spring.

The Academy plays an important role when it comes to the church's attitude towards social issues of the day. It can be asked to advise on Papal policy.

A spokesman for the Academy is in a less than talkative mood when I call. "I can't say anything about it!" he insists, downing the receiver in a hurry.

Watch for the white smoke from No 10.

* Much concern about the onset of blindness after Tuesday's launch party for The Decadent Handbook, produced by the former Erotic Review editrix Rowan Pelling.

The dungeonesque club Hedges & Butler was a cross between the flea market in Rome and Purgatory. Filthy poets and a burlesque dancer (vigorously shaking her strategic tassles) wowed the gin-sodden throng.

Pelling attacked the Daily Telegraph's reviewer Duncan Fallowell, who criticised the Handbook as not decadent enough.

"When I started on the Review, Duncan wrote two articles, which I did not print," says Pelling. "They weren't that erotic. It wasn't because it was gay - we ran blindinglyrude stuff about cottaging on Hampstead Heath, which had my colonels harrumphing."

She adds: "Duncan called me 'as erotic as a darning mushroom' - which is wonderful. I might have it tattooed on my bottom."

* Leafing through Tom Bower's entertainingly brutal new biography on the extravagant adventures of deposed media magnate Conrad Black - soon to face trial for fraud - and his wife Barbara Amiel, I spot a less-than-touching anecdote about the latter's evening out with the late Princess of Wales.

Recalling a party at the Ritz in 1994, Bower describes how Amiel imposed herself as lead hostess for the evening.

When Diana arrived late, Amiel seized her and led her to sit with Australian tycoon Kerry Packer, who was conversing with the alluring hackette Petronella Wyatt.

"Would you like to get up and move elsewhere?" Amiel demanded of Wyatt. "Princess Diana is going to sit here."

Ordered Packer: "Oh no, you stay. I don't want to sit next to that old bag."

* Labour MP Derek Wyatt's helpful suggestion that the 2012 Olympics should have its own Secretary of State has been met with many a raised eyebrow in the Commons.

Wyatt, currently chairman of the all-party London Olympics group, has declared that a specific Cabinet post and accompanying select committee (with chair) is essential for "Parliament and the country" in the coming years.

So just which former England rugby international and junior long-jump champion is rumoured to fancy himself for such a prestigious government appointment?

"Derek's announcement and lobbyingn behind the scenes have caused plenty of amusement among colleagues," I'm told.

Gold medal for initiative.

* Jonathan Ross enraged Thatcherites when he questioned David Cameron on whether or not he has ever sexually fantasised about Maggie. And the presenter is in trouble again - but treading shark-infested (rather than hot) water this time. Secret agents and sexuality are his new matières du jour.

Quizzed by the comedian David Walliams in a television documentary, My Life With James Bond, if he thinks there's a chance Bond might be gay, Ross grimaced: "What is wrong with you that you could even ask that?"

Ross said the suggestion was "foul" - although did hastily add, "Not that there's anything wrong with being gay". Well done!

In the finest spirit of campaigning journalism, Pandora will now pressure for the first gay Bond kiss. Preferably involving 007, but a villain will suffice.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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