Tories' makeover man takes pay cut - to £180,000

* As the man behind the Conservative Party's facelift, David Cameron's close-cropped image guru, Steve Hilton, has long drawn the ire of Tories in the shires.

It is Hilton, 37, hand crafting Cameron's touchy-feely move to the centre - behind flourishes such as the "hug-a-husky" photo, the poverty speech and ditching the torch logo for an oak tree.

The teetotal son of Hungarian refugees, pictured above, is described as being to Cameron what Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell were to Tony Blair and the New Labour project. A source told a newspaper rival: "Steve just interrupts Cameron and says: 'Shut up Dave, you don't know what you are talking about'."

Rumblings of dissent about Hilton's influence can be heard closer to home, from members of the shadow cabinet, such as Liam Fox and Francis Maude.

So what, pray, will they all make of news that Cameron's chosen consiglieri and friend of 16 years is now being paid a salary of £180,000?

Although a pay cut, Hilton's £15,000 monthly pay cheques remain the largest in the party's history. His remittance dwarfs Cameron's (£128,000pa), and puts him on a footing with Tony Blair (£185,000).

Grass-roots activists were apoplectic when it was reported earlier this year that Hilton was paid £23,000 a month for his consultancy - amounting to £270,000pa.

A Tory spokesman insisted at the time that the fee was "transitional" and would be brought in line once Hilton joined the regular payroll. Good to see they are true to their word!

* A setback to the chances of Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood reuniting onstage.

The singer and the Rolling Stones guitarist were bandmates in The Faces in the early 1970s. Stewart recently said he was considering a reunion gig if the old members could together produce two hours of material.

But Ronnie has been uncomplimentary about his old pal in a magazine interview with Uncut.

"With all the years he [Rod] has been stranded away from that group thing, he's been Hollywood-ified," says Ronnie. "He's got all this attention and all these poofs around him. He's lost the earthiness I know he still has inside."

Wood once described Glaswegian-born Stewart as "tighter than two coats of paint". So hopefully, in the finest rock and roll tradition, they can smash up each others' hotel rooms, hug, and make up their artistic differences.

* If you please: some whooping and a few "Now then, now then, now thens" for Sir Jimmy Savile.

Congratulations are in order, not only for his induction yesterday into the Radio Academy's Hall of Fame, but for his flagrant flouting of the awards lunch dress code ("lounge suit") at the Savoy hotel.

For Sir Jimmy, 80, nothing less than a shell suit could be countenanced - on this occasion a bright green and silver number, undone to the navel to reveal a red string vest pierced by chest hair.

And accessorising for these events is crucial: a bumbag, several pounds of chunky gold jewellery, peach-tinted sunglasses and a trademark cigar to chomp on as you take to the stage for applause.

"I haven't worn this suit for 22 years," Savile told Pandora. "You need something special for a day like today."

* There is a school of thought in Westminster - an ill-subscribed one - that when Gordon Brown becomes prime minister he will call a snap election to secure legitimacy for his leadership from the public at large and give himself five years to right the wrongs that will be attributed to Tony.

Says a Conservative source: "Absolutely crackers. We haven't got the funds for an election campaign, and we've got more money than they [Labour] have. We can't rule anything out, but we're not planning for it."

Labour's take on it is that voters need time to "see through" Cameron and his team and to understand what Brown can offer.

With a working majority in Parliament and only a slender lead in the polls, Gordon is unlikely to do Dave a favour.

* Labour rebel MP Peter Kilfoyle went under the knife for a quadruple heart bypass back in August. So Westminster colleagues were delighted to see him back recently with a spring in his step.

Kilfoyle, now gleefully restored to his role as one of the Blair hecklers-in-chief on the back benches, credits his swift recovery to the large nightly doses of Scotch prescribed by his doctor on the NHS.

Surgeon: "Is there anything you need?" Kilfoyle: "A double whisky." The surgeon added a tot of whisky to his daily prescription.

Kilfoyle tells Pandora: "It is a brilliant NHS service and long may it continue." He adds: "On the serious side, it's not much fun having an operation like that and the doctor believed it was right to have a little bit of what you do like, to help you on your way."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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