Sir Trevor owes his success to his skin colour, says Tory MP

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The Independent Online

* Not for the first time in recent days, one of Michael Howard's MPs has caused great offence by making insensitive comments about an ethnic group.

* Not for the first time in recent days, one of Michael Howard's MPs has caused great offence by making insensitive comments about an ethnic group.

Pandora has received an email from Jonathan Sayeed MP's parliamentary address. It suggests - in light of my recent competition - a "killer question" to be put to Sir Trevor McDonald at Cancer Research UK's annual Turn the Tables lunch.

His query, for the Trinidad-born McDonald read as follows: "Do you feel embarrassed at having benefited from positive discrimination?"

According to race-relations groups, this is an ill-advised question for anyone - not least a Tory MP - to be asking.

"Jonathan Sayeed falls into the racist thinking that black people in senior or public profile positions couldn't possibly have got there on merit or ability," says Karen Chouhan, of the 1990 Trust. "How rude to suggest it was Sir Trevor's colour or race that got him the job. He should sue: we'd back him."

Sir Trevor is also irked. "It would be nice to know how I've benefited from positive discrimination," he tells me. "It's a very odd thing for him to say, although I wouldn't say it's offensive. Just juvenile."

Sayeed won't return my calls. He's already being investigated by a Parliamentary watchdog, after the Sunday Times claimed he was taking paying guests on tours of Westminster, so has good reason to keep his head down.

* AT LONG last, I can reveal the result of Lord Archer's "record breaking" effort in the London Marathon.

In January, the old lag decided to raise £1.66m, £1 for every inch of the 26 mile, 385-yard race. That would eclipse the world record held by the rap artist Puff Daddy, who was sponsored $2m (£1.19m) in last year's New York Marathon.

Ever since the race - which took him five and a half hours - Lord Archer has rather oddly refused to say whether he's been successful. But now marathon organiser David Bedford has let the cat out of the bag.

"Jeffrey's told me he has already raised more than £1m and has outstanding pledges from another 118 people, which should secure him the world record," says Bedford.

"I imagine he will chase those people as hard as others have chased him, with every breath in his body."

* ROBERT KILROY-SILK has delivered a snub to the UK Independence Party's foremost celebrity supporter. Perhaps unwisely, given his role in the party's current in-fighting, RK-S failed to turn up at the launch of Joan Collins' novel Misfortune's Daughters in Knightsbridge on Monday, despite being sent an invitation.

"He was meant to be here; he accepted," said a disappointed Joanie, above. "I've been in the States, so I've been out of the loop as far as UKIP is concerned, but they should have called up and told me about any problems. I should have been told."

"It sounds terrible that there's a split. Robert was very good for the party, so I hope this doesn't turn into a big problem." Too late!

* IT NEVER rains, but it pours for the people of Liverpool. First, they are insulted by Boris Johnson; now, the ultimate bombshell.

John Lennon's half-sister Julia Baird has told the Chester Chronicle that Liverpool's favourite son actually preferred the nearby Roman city of Chester.

"During our childhood, John and I used to spend a lot of time there," she says. "We always used to come to Chester, as we always knew it was the best place for clothes shopping. John was very fond of Chester. We always thought it was the place to be, not Liverpool."

* In the excitement over Jonathan Sayeed - see above - I forgot to name the winner of my Turn The Tables competition.

He was Mark Riley, who wins a bottle of Dom Perignon 1996 for suggesting that Diane Abbott should ask Edward Stourton if going to a "posh public school" (Ampleforth) helped his career.

Sounds innocuous enough, but there's an elephant trap: the question allowed Stourton to raise Abbot's decision to send her own son a posh private school. After much stammering, Abbot - who was once a stern critic of private education - offered the following excuse: "It doesn't matter, because he wouldn't sound posh on the radio."