So who's telling the truth over Man United grant?

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The Independent Online

The last thing Tony Blair needs right now is for another loyal minister's head to appear on the chopping block.

If he thought Tessa Jowell was out of the woods, he'd better think again, though. The Culture Secretary, only recently recovered from the David Mills affair, is about to be thrown back into the firing line.

Last week, Pandora raised an eyebrow at Jowell's comments in Parliament about a (highly criticised) decision to award a £30,000 lottery grant to Manchester United.

It was, she said, nothing to do with her. "This decision was taken by the regional sports board of Sports England. This was not a decision ministers were party to."

As I pointed out, these comments directly contradict those of the Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, who had days earlier told The Sunday Telegraph that he was "directly involved" in that very decision.

They can't have both been telling the truth. And tomorrow, the Conservative MP Nigel Evans will table two Parliamentary Questions to find out what's been going on.

The questions, drafts of which have been seen by this column, will require Jowell to confirm that the comments she made to Parliament were accurate.

Presuming that she replies in the affirmative, MPs can draw two explanations. Either Caborn lied to The Sunday Telegraph; or he told truth, but Jowell was ignorant of what he was up to. Either way, it won't look good.

Lucy gets tennis elbow from the BBC

As Greg Rusedski's career enters its tea-time years, his wife Lucy's efforts to break into broadcasting have suffered a setback.

The BBC is replacing Mrs R as its "roving reporter" for this year's Wimbledon, following her troubled debut in 2005.

She was forced to drop out half way through that event, after falling pregnant. Snobbish critics had previously cited her endearingly bubbly performance as an example of "dumbing down."

This year, to avoid any such accusations, the Beeb has hired a trio of seasoned professionals.

"We won't be using Lucy this year," says a spokesman. "Our roving reporters will be Rishi Patel, Phil Jones, and Jill Douglas."

Rusedski isn't fussed, though. At the launch of Seka Nikolic's book You Can Heal Yourself, she said she wouldn't have taken the job anyway: "My daughter, Scarlett, is far too young."

A femme fatale smoulders

Kathleen Turner, currently headlining in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in the West End, makes a formidable next-door neighbour. The actress Alex Kingston, also treading the boards in our capital, was recently billeted next door to Turner at a block of luxury apartments in St James's called 51 Buckingham Gate.

"After her first night, Kingston complained that it stank of smoke in her room," says a source at the hotel.

"She said the smell was coming through the walls. Anyway, it turned out that Turner, a chain-smoker, had been chuffing away all night. The entire floor was whiffy, and poor old Kingston had to be moved."

Turner's alter-ego in the play, Martha, is partial to the odd cigarette. Perhaps she was getting into character.

Basic instinct

Like John Major's Tories, the loyal foot-soldiers of New Labour are going Back to Basics.

A Blairite MP, Sion Simon, has contacted colleagues, inviting them to attend a series of tea-time Q&A sessions entitled "Square One".

"Their purpose is to allow Labour MPs, who never quite felt they really got to grips with particular subjects ... to have the subject explained to them," he writes.

"It's All the Questions You Really Wanted Answered But Were Too Afraid to Ask Because You're an MP."

Interested parties will be educated in local government, the media, economics, and parliamentary procedure. "Sounds like a support group for thick backbenchers," says one cynical guest.

A hairy moment for Cherie's coiffeur

In recent weeks, Cherie Blair's £7,700 hairdresser, Andre Suard, was targeted by Fleet Street's most ruthless investigative teams. While photographers parked outside his Mayfair salon, undercover hacks attempted to secure appointments with the celebrity crimper. Alas, they went home empty-handed: no decent shot of Suard landed on picture desks, and Cherie's grooming regime remains top secret. How so?

"Andre's actually been there all along, but no one's recognised him," says a colleague. "You see, they're all looking for a bald man. But recently, having previously had very little hair, he's acquired a full barnet."

So, could Cherie's stylist, whose previous clients include Bill Clinton and Princess Diana, wear a wig? A call to the Michael John Salon is inconclusive. Says the receptionist: "All I can say about Andre Suard is that he does have hair at this moment."

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