Postcard from London: exiled PM takes in sights

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* It has been three weeks since Thaksin Shinawatra was informed during a trip to New York that his government had been thrown out in a bloodless military coup.

The question remains: what will the former Thai prime minister, pictured, do next? For the past fortnight, the deposed billionaire has apparently been holed up in a flat near Hyde Park with his daughter, who is currently studying in London.

But faced with the unappealing prospect of corruption charges should he return to Thailand, he's apparently considering remaining in Britain longer.

Pandora learns that Thaksin has recently contacted one of London's top legal firms to see if he has a case to stay.

At present, he can remain in London for three months as a visitor, after which he could be in a position to apply for political asylum.

The Home Office will not confirm or deny the story, refusing to comment on individual cases "regardless of their celebrity".

Meanwhile, Thaksin's spokesman tells me his boss is only in London to put his feet up and take a break from affairs of state.

"The rumour of Dr Thaksin seeking political asylum is totally inaccurate," he says.

"He is not seeking such status. He [is] merely taking a rest. His status is a visitor to this country."

Most welcome. May we suggest a cheering whizz on the funfair slides at the Tate Modern; a movie (The Devil Wears Prada is funny); or a box at the Albert Hall for Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell III? Rock on Dr T!

* In July 2004, Britain's leading conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, suddenly leapt from newspapers' classical music columns and on to the front pages.

The Scouse baton-wielder, then 49, left his second wife to live with striking Czech opera star Magdalena Kozena, 18 years his junior. Last year, she gave birth to the couple's first child together, Jonas.

"I would like another one," Kozena tells me. "Although I don't think with this job you could make more than two. That would be really tough." Asked if they will marry, she's coy: "We'll see."

Kozena and Rattle, artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, have released their first joint album, of Mozart arias. She performs at the Barbican in a fortnight.

Apparently they didn't rehearse much for the record. "If you're with someone every day you rather forget about what has to be done."

* Back in the Seventies, life on the road for The Who's Pete Townshend meant booze, girls and a guitar case of music-expanding pharmaceuticals.

Fast forward three decades and the rocker seems to score his highs by... doing his laundry.

"When we got to Chicago I had to wash 30 pairs of underpants and socks," he informs fans of his blog, in a special 1,500-word submission.

"The rest of my stuff is dry-cleaned or laundered professionally, and Mark, my security man, gets it to Whirly, the girl who travels with the crew, and somehow she gets it done on the road.

"The bathroom [of his luxury tour bus] was totally full of socks and briefs. They took three days to dry."

Note to self: hope I die before having to wash own underpants in caravan sink.

* Just when our favourite right-wingers UKIP appeared to have ceased their post-Kilroy-Silk civil war by electing Nigel Farage leader, a honcho has resigned from the party citing colleagues' "scurrilous behaviour and downright dishonesty".

Richard Suchorzewski, runner-up to Farage, says rivals "colluded" to discredit him, falsely accusing him of associating with the BNP and being gay. He signs off his resignation letter: "Fish rots from the head down."

Says Farage: "There's nothing like a bad loser in life. We were very surprised by his allegations."

UKIP's press officer adds: "It is a shame he resigned, because he was very hard-working, and we had only just learnt to pronounce his name."

* Who would believe it? Boris Yeltsin, Russia's "booze and snooze" former president, got totally sloshed at Her Maj's table aboard HMS Britannia. "He liked the claret," recalls the then Hong Kong governor Lord [Chris] Patten, of the banquet guest's performance in 1994. "He drank it in one gulp. I had to decide: would it be better to have a president who was sober but sad, or one who was excited but happy? I ordered the footman to refill, thinking 'it can't get that bad'."

Yeltsin became increasingly excitable, pestering the Queen (against protocol - good man) to say if he should continue as Russian leader. "This went on until finally she cracked: 'I think, Mr President, you are probably going to stand again.' He banged his glass on the table and was delighted with her endorsement."

A last throw of the dice, Tony Blair?

pandora@independent.co.uk

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