Sofa, so good: Hilary beds down in a new environment

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The Independent Online

Hilary Benn enjoyed the biggest moment of his blossoming career so far on Monday, when he addressed delegates at the United Nations in New York about the issue of climate change.

It was a daunting task for the minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affair, since any attempts to try to persuade the Americans to cut greenhouse gases usually fall on deaf ears. It was hardly made any easier by his sleeping arrangements the previous night.

Mr Benn, I am reliably informed, arrived at his hotel late on Sunday evening, only to find his room had been double-booked. But, rather than trawl the streets of Manhattan to seek out another, he apparently decided to make do with a few hours kip on a hotel sofa.

"There was a bit of a mix-up at the hotel, which was hardly the kind of thing Hilary needed on the eve of one of his biggest ever speeches," my source tells me. "Having come all that way, he knew he had to get some sleep one way or another, and coped rather well under the circumstances."

When I asked a Benn aide whether the Leeds Central MP managed a full eight hours before his big speech, I was met with a brick wall. "I don't know anything about it," his spokeswoman hastily informed me.

Our dashing young Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, is currently in the Big Apple as well, attending emergency talks at the UN about the escalating violence in Burma.

I do hope he managed to procure a bed beforehis visit.

Any Joseph credit will do for me, Sir Tim insists

Composers are a touchy breed when it comes to songwriting credits – just look at the way Sir Paul McCartney tried to rewrite history with the Lennon/McCartney brand a couple of years back.

Britain's other great songwriting duo, Sir Tim Rice and Lord Lloyd Webber, are another case in point. While promoting a new production of their musical Joseph, Lloyd Webber inferred that his long-term collaborator prefers see his name take prominence on the songsheet. "Tim Rice has written great lyrics for the new song," he said. "It's wonderful to hear a new Lloyd Webber/Rice song after all this time – or Rice/Lloyd Webber as he'd prefer."

Sir Tim, however, is quick to reject the claim. "I have never insisted, no," he says. "The order on the credit has varied over the years from one to another. And, as far as Joseph is concerned, it's an Andrew Lloyd Webber production. I couldn't give a stuff."

Gumball revolution

There has been an outbreak of mutiny among drivers in that madcap annual race, the Gumball Rally.

Entrepreneur Michael Ross, a regular at the nine-year old event which each attracts celebrity participants such as Caprice and Jay Kay, wants to form a breakaway race to replace it.

Ross is not happy with the Gumball's current organiser, after two people were killed Macedonia last year when one driver allegedly crashed into them and drove off. He is particularly hacked off that prizes were subsequently handed out in St Tropez, even though the race was abandoned.

"The Gumball hasn't evolved in 10 years," Ross says. "It's time the rally took a quantum leap into the 21st century in terms of attention to safety."

Small regrets

Say what you like about Jeffrey Archer, you've got to admire the man's chutzpah.

The disgraced peer is among the luminaries to have contributed to Juliet Solomon's forthcoming tome, The Book of Regrets.

One might expect the convicted perjurer to speak ruefully about his infamous libel case against the Daily Star, which resulted in the sacking of its editor Lloyd Jones, but ultimately ended in 2001 with Lord Archer's trial and conviction. Not a bit of it.

Instead, he lists his greatest regrets as not playing cricket for England (apparently he was not good enough), getting older every day, and not having a daughter. The latter, he says, was his wife's fault.

Waiting for some kind words

Does nobody out there have a single good word to say about Tory MP Andrew Pelling?

The Croydon MP is currently suspended from his party in wake of allegations he had assaulted his pregnant wife.

Certainly, not much by way of sympathy can be found about the embattled politican on his official website, where he has included a link entitled "Kind Words."

Earlier this week, the web page was blank, though readers were confidently assured: "Kind Words About Andrew – Coming Later Today."

That was two days ago, and such sentiments are yet to appear. I will keep checking, and if any do pop up, I will be sure to let you know.