The Tories' Miss Wales fails the Welsh test (with honours)

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* If David Cameron wants to encourage more women to get involved with Tory politics, he needs to ensure that the current crop of front-bench females does him justice in public.

It is unfortunate, therefore, that one of his most senior female appointments, Cheryl Gillan the shadow Welsh Secretary, appears to know little about Wales and not to like the country very much.

Gillan - the 53-year-old MP for the Buckinghamshire constituency of Chesham and Amersham - agreed to take part in a trivia test about Wales for a local newspaper.

But after getting the first four questions wrong, she refused to answer any more.

"She did not know how many members the Welsh Assembly had; failed to name Mike Ruddock as the coach of the national rugby team; had never heard of the Welsh soap opera Pobol y Cwm; and was unaware that the Cardiff firm Brains made beer," fumes Wales on Sunday.

She further disgraced herself by refusing to tell the newspaper that she is proud to be Welsh, insisting: "I'm British. I'm quite proud I was born in Wales, I'm proud my dad was born in Scotland and I'm proud I sit in an English seat as well."

According to John Griffiths, a Labour member of the Welsh Assembly, Gillan has form for this sort of thing, having told him in the past that she "managed to get out" of the country.

However, she denies this last allegation, describing the Labour Party as "desperate" for mentioning it.

* Sofia Hayat looks to all the world like a liberated woman. She presents a programme on Zee TV, has appeared in a reality television show, and attracted the paparazzi by turning up at a recent film premiere with her bottom on display.

All this, she tells me, has caused problems with her family.

"My mother and I didn't speak for a long time because she didn't approve of what I was doing," she says.

"She's a very strict Muslim woman and, in her mind, singing was for prostitutes and whores and so she didn't approve of my career choice."

Hayat's mother did turn up to watch her perform for the first time at the Pakistan Earthquake Appeal concert on Tuesday night. But hopes of a full reconciliation may be premature.

"I'm doing the new McDonald's commercial for the egg and bacon bagel next," adds Hayat, left. "It's set in an office with three people - the boss, me and a man who fancies me. He gets into all sorts of trouble. It should be quite funny."

* Pop music's most famous Christian has waded into the topical debate on homosexuality and the Church.

He describes himself as "saddened" by the controversy over gay priests, and adds grist to the mill of those who complain that Christianity is behind the times.

"I am sad because we have to learn to deal with everything," he tells a Sky interviewer.

"Everything has changed. The Church has got to come to terms with the fact that things have changed even since Jesus died. It's only a mere 2,000 years.

"We've got to deal with every aspect of life. There are gay people in this world. Some of them are very talented. Some of them could be great priests."

Sir Cliff goes on to say that he is also sad that so few radio stations will play his music any more.

* It's almost time for seasonal good will from our golden oldie celebrities, but clearly not quite.

Recently, I reported that the birdwatcher Bill Oddie was fed up with people asking him about bird flu "just because it's got the word bird in it". Now the bald Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart says he has a similar grievance.

"Flying the Enterprise for seven years has led people to believe I know all about science, so they come and ask me complicated questions about it, but to be honest, I don't even know how to programme my VHS."

Stewart was speaking at the preview of a new ITV series in which he will star. Called Eleventh Hour, it sees him playing a professor of physics who advises the government, which won't exactly dispel the myth.

* It is no surprise that spirits were high among new MPs after the last general election. But it is a little disturbing nonetheless to discover the degree to which some celebrations must have gone.

For the wives of at least two of their number, Greg Hands, the Tory MP for Hammersmith and David Davies, the Tory member for Monmouth, have babies due on 14 February.

"If you count back nine months, it would take you to just after the general election," points out a smirking lobby observer.

As this column revealed some months ago, David Cameron's wife, Samantha, is expecting her third child at about the same time. Congratulations to all three.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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