Post brings embarrassment to Royal Mail chairman

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The Independent Online

Questions are being raised over a conflict of interest between Leighton's role at Royal Mail and another of his directorships - BSkyB. The satellite broadcaster has just signed a deal with one of Royal Mail's competitors, TNT, to deliver letters to its millions of customers, leading to cries of a conflict of interest.

Yesterday, the Communication Workers' Union's General Secretary, Billy Hayes, told Pandora: "It is hardly going to inspire people to have faith in his leadership at Royal Mail if he's the director of a company that is giving its business elsewhere."

The situation is likely to deteriorate as the Royal Mail faces increased competition from 1 January, when the postal market is thrown open. The CWU fears that Leighton's other non-executive directorships - including BHS and Selfridges - may lead to further conflicts of interest.

"The fact that he has interests in so many businesses raises questions about how he will lead the Royal Mail when it loses its monopoly," adds Hayes.

Yesterday, TNT was gloating. "It's good news for the [Sky] shareholders Mr Leighton represents, as they'll be spending less money on delivery of mail," said a spokesman.

A Royal Mail representative described suggestions of any conflict of interest as "nonsense".

Over in New York, trendy types are having a rather more exciting time than London Fashion Week could offer. The designer Diane von Furstenberg has just been slapped with a huge lawsuit by a punter who went to watch her catwalk show.

The suit - brought against von Furstenberg, left, by a woman called Karen Hanes Larrain - is to reclaim medical costs and damages after Larrain was hit by a bank of lights which fell on to the audience at the show.

"Diane is devastated," I'm told. "She was in tears when the lights fell down: it completely ruined the day for her. There was a bit of blood and everyone was shocked, but the fire brigade turned up to help out."

Larrain received 30 stitches and was concussed in the accident. Yesterday, a spokesman for von Furstenberg said:

"We offered to take care of the bills for everyone who went to the doctor or hospital. She didn't get back to us because this suit was under way."

Jefferson Hack, the father of Kate Moss's two year-old daughter, has been quiet throughout the furore over his ex-girlfriend's drug-taking revelations. It turns out that's because he's been quietly working away on the first edition of his new magazine, Another Man.

"It's a magazine for men who like their lifestyle rocked with passion and intelligence, luxury and a sense of adventure," says Hack, right.

Indeed: the launch edition - published 6 October - is set to include a big splash on Kate Moss (who is often featured in Hack's publications) and her new shoot for Christian Dior Homme. But yesterday, Dior was still wondering whether to sack the errant model.

"The magazine has been printed already and the feature's in there," said a spokesman for the mag, supportively.

Frail but active as ever, Lady Thatcher is unlikely to keep her own council for long over her preferred leader for the Tory party.

Her endorsement looks to be signalled by the guest list at her 80th birthday party, which Pandora learns is to be organised by another ageing grande dame, the Queen's cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson.

"David Davis will be brushing down his smartest suit," I am told. "Ken Clarke, on the other hand, will not be welcome. All those closest to her have been invited."

Pandora has yet to be asked to the bash (at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London on 13 October) but let's hope it's not overshadowed by the appearance - or otherwise - of Mark Thatcher.

"Of course he's been invited, but he's keen not to attract too much press attention, so hasn't committed," adds my source.

We haven't heard the last of Shirley Bassey. Her many fans will be pleased to know that the veteran is back in the recording studio, at work on a whole new album.

"It's great to be doing stuff nobody's heard before," the Tiger Bay songstress tells me enthusiastically.

But there is a poignant twist to the enterprise, which sees Bassey hoping to be allowed to team up with some more current stars.

"We've put forward some proposals to some male vocalists, so we'll have to see what happens. I'm hoping to do a version of 'Fever'with Michael Buble; and Will Young once did one of my songs - 'Come On Baby Light My Fire'- so I'd love to do one with him. It could be great."

Please, guys, lend a hand.

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