Tory hopeful McVey facing tough battles on two fronts

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The Independent Online

The glamorous for- mer GMTV presenter Esther McVey is currently embroiled in two Herculean battles.

McVey, right, a former regular on the BBC show Heaven and Earth, is in the news as she is handling PR for the Madeleine Fund, which was set up to help pay for the McCanns' search for their daughter. She is also trying to become a Tory MP.

McVey is down to stand for the Conservatives at the next election in the marginal seat of Wirral West, which she narrowly failed to win in 2005 by just over 1,000 votes. "Yes, she's definitely standing there again," says a Tory spokesman. "She was actually re-selected pretty quickly after the last election."

Of course her involvement in the McCann saga could prove problematic, not just if things get worse for the McCanns in the press over the next few days. If Gordon Brown were to call a snap election in the autumn, she'd also be forced to chose between the two jobs. What to do?

"There is a worry her involvement could harm her election prospects," acknowledges one Conservative HQ insider. "Obviously no one at party HQ will directly speak to Esther about this as they won't want to be seen to be interfering in such a sensitive issue."

Should Esther finally be elected, it would mark a touching reunion with her former boyfriend and current Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. McVey once divulged that the now happily married Ed used to propose to her "every two weeks".

Let's be Blunt about James's real age

James Blunt's boyish looks and squeaky ballads mean he is often derided as the archetypal soft-rock drip, but the fact he lies about his age surely takes the biscuit.

In an interview with the latest edition of GQ magazine, Blunt tells his inquisitor Piers Morgan that he's 27 years old.

A confused chum of the former public-school crooner, however, reckons he's been a good six years too generous.

"It's pretty strange, because I remember that Blunty left Harrow in 1993, so that makes him 33 at the very least," I'm told.

"He was sent to the front line in Kosovo as a captain in 1999 – he wouldn't have done that aged 19."

A spokesman wouldn't respond to queries about Blunt's age, but several internet entries confirm that he was born in 1974.

Says Morgan: "I just checked the tape, and he says he's 27, definitely."

Davina: I'll be back

Davina McCall's recent stint filling for the Radio 2 disc jockey Ken Bruce led to a torrent of complaints, but the BBC aren't fussed.

McCall harshly described by one listener as "patronising, condescending and trivial", tells me she's going to be back in doing further shifts soon.

"I am going to be filling again, but I'm not sure who for yet," she told me at an exhibition of Barry Fry's photos for the charity Movers and Shakers. "It was great fun doing Ken's slot, you get to reach so many people."

Intriguingly, McCall said she was Capital Radio's first choice to replace Chris Tarrant on the breakfast show ahead of the current incumbent Johnny Vaughan.

"My agent was in discussions about it, but I wasn't keen because I had children to look after," she added.

Rude row

Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger has pulled out of the Conservative Party conference, the Tories will have to make do with a photo-op with the presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani.

The Republican frontrunner and former mayor of New York will meet both David Cameron and Baroness Thatcher next week, but it's the party's rabidly pro-American Shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, who has been widely credited in the press as organising the trip. Which has come as some surprise to the Cameroons.

"Liam's lot have clearly been putting it about that Rudy is coming because of him, but the reality is that David's people have been organising this for some time," says one.

Did I really say that?

Sinead O'Connor has often been regarded, in the most endearing sense possible, as madder than a box of frogs. A case in point is a letter the crop-haired poptress has penned a letter to this month's Word magazine.

"Dear Word," she writes. I love your mag very much but I wasn't terribly happy with that cringe-worthy quote attributed to me in the last issue: 'Fame and beauty have proved a curse for me.' I never thought of myself as a beautiful person and... I'm not in the habit of complaining about the many times I've been misquoted but this one is abhorrent to me."

Despite her statement to the contrary, O'Connor has form in making her quibbles known in the press. In 2004, she took out a full-page ad in the Irish press demanding that the media respect her privacy.

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