Tory high-flyer tipped to hold party's purse strings

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After being named the most powerful man in the City by the recently relaunched publication The Business, Michael Spencer is currently the name to drop around the square mile.

But if rumours abounding around Parliament are to be believed, his influence will soon be felt further afield - towards the corridors of Westminster.

It appears that Spencer has recently agreed to an offer from David Cameron to take on the mantle of Conservative Party treasurer in the next few months.

"When he agreed, Michael apparently joked 'What the hell am I getting myself into?' - but I'm sure he's actually very keen on the role," I'm told. "Obviously it will work very well for the Tories too. He's a big name who carries massive clout around the City."

Spencer - whose investment company, Icap, is worth an estimated £3bn - would succeed his friend and one-time business associate, Jonathan Marland, who was made a life peer this year.

The financier is said to be on very friendly terms with Cameron and has, in the past, reportedly allowed the Tory leader to make use of his luxury private jet.

Icap, which is listed among the big donors to the Tories, is keeping mum. When I ring to check the information, a spokesman tells me: "As I understand, Michael Spencer is currently a deputy treasurer of the party, and as far as I know it's nothing more than that."

Kaplinsky goes after the naked truth

Natasha Kaplinsky's 100-megawatt smile and nifty dance moves have helped make her one of the BBC's most likeable autocuties.

But she did little to endear herself to her colleague Ben Fogle during an interview last year, it seems. Kaplinsky was interviewing the presenter while he was rowing across the Atlantic, a task which - purely for reasons of comfort - he decided to do without wearing any clothes.

"I remember her ringing for an update on our progress on one of those days when everything was going wrong," Fogle told an audience at last week's Cheltenham Literature Festival.

"There were lots of things she could have asked about - but her first question was: 'Are you still naked?'

"I thought 'I'm dying here and all you care about is whether I'm naked. I thought that rowing in a 20ft boat across 3,000 miles of ocean would be interesting enough, but no."

Davidson comedy offensive

Jim Davidson's unique brand of offensive humour has mysteriously been filling venues across the land for donkeys' years. In the course of a performance in Bournemouth last week, Davidson managed to appal one fan so much that the woman was forced to leave the venue.

"Davidson made a cruel joke about breast cancer which really hit home. I was diagnosed with skin cancer two years ago," she told a local newspaper. "When Davidson poked fun at a lady in a wheelchair and made jokes about blind people, I couldn't stand any more and walked out."

Davidson's curious attitude towards the disabled is nothing new. In 2003, he reportedly pulled out of a show in Plymouth after wheelchair users sat near the stage refused to move.

Brown's den

Dragons' Den judge and serial entrepreneur, Duncan Bannatyne, recently added to his bulging portfolio of health clubs by purchasing the Living Well chain of gyms of the Hilton Group for a reported £90m.

Friends says that Bannatyne, a Labour donor, is particularly pleased to have acquired the club situated in Millbank. It's the one used by a number of MPs - including, so they say, Gordon Brown.

"Duncan has met Brown a few times, a fact he's particularly proud of," says a chum. "So now he likes telling us all that he's got the Chancellor working out for him every morning."

Hitchens comes out fighting

One of the more stunning conversions of recent years was the rather gymnastic volte-face performed by that former scourge of all things

Republican, Christopher Hitchens. Such has been the warmth of his embrace of George Bush and the war in Iraq that woe betide any naysayers. Soon after the invasion, in June 2003, Hitchens did a demolition job on Bob Woodward, the hero of Watergate, whose book Bush at War he deemed full of "shifty untruths" and a "satire upon itself". During a lunch in New York last week, Hitchens laid into Woodward's new book State of Denial to journalists, describing the author as a "stenographer".

"I try to maintain a relationship with language and style; Woodward doesn't care," he said. "His writing is almost unreadable. [His book] is much harder to read than it must have been to write."

The typically mild-mannered Woodward decided not to respond to Hitchens' comments.

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