Tory leadership 'suggests' Boris smartens up his act

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The Independent Online

For the first time since he became the Conservative Party candidate for London's May 2008 mayoral election, Boris Johnson, faces a backlash within his own ranks over a "worrying drift" in his campaign to win power in the capital.

The gripes emerged yesterday on the website ConservativeHome, which reported Tory bosses' concerns that Boris is failing thus far to show the focus and energy required to beat the organised Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone.

Pandora understands that a meeting last week between Bozza and the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, above right, did not help. Osborne has told Boris that he needs to beef up his campaign team and even suggested big hitters within the party who Johnson ought to recruit. Osborne is said to be unimpressed that his recommendations have not yet been actioned.

A senior CCHQ source tells Pandora: "Boris has played it ok. After all, it is possible for a candidate to over-expose themselves early on."

But the source went on to warn: "If you look at how the party has shaped up over the past two years, if you want to proceed in the party and achieve electoral success, you ought to pay attention to David Cameron and George Osborne."

Osborne's press secretary said the story was "flim flam" and that Boris and George "share ideas". Johnson's spokesman, Dan Ritterband, confirmed Boris and George met last week: "The leadership is happy. I don't know what they spoke about. I presume they were having a catch up."

Konnie comes out on top after roll of the dice

In February, bright button Konnie Huq will step down from presenting Blue Peter after 10 years to front a current affairs chat show on ITV that will air head-to-head with David Dimbleby's Question Time.

Huq got some practice in the "adult world" on Tuesday at the Groucho Club, where she hosted a Perudo tournament (the game is like an easy version of poker, but with dice).

Trying to control the wine-fuelled proceedings, she barked: "You're worse than children!" A heckler intervened: "But you don't feed children alcohol."

Huq, 32, asked if everyone would like to hear a South American joke. A battered aubergine was thrown at the back. She pressed on: "How do llamas wake up? With an a-llama clock!" There's work needed on tailoring corporate gig material to the crowd.

To shouts of "Fix!", the lovely Huq won her own competition, leading to confusion over how she could present herself the trophy, left. There was, this time, no apology from the Keeper of the Egg Boxes.

Little big man

A fortnight ago, I reported Dustin Hoffman's masterclass in how to get ahead in Hollywood. The radiant, just-graduated actress Tolula Adeyemi gatecrashed a product launch for Mrs Hoffman's cosmetics label, marched up to Dustin and introduced herself, explaining that she had auditioned to be in his latest flick, Last Chance Harvey. He looked her down and up and then down again, marched over to the film's director and said: "If you don't give this girl a role then I'm not doing it." Tolula got the part.

Far from being worried that he will now be mobbed by young ladies demanding parts in his movies – not such a horrible proposition, perhaps – Hoffman, 70, is pleased with the publicity, apparently. "He thought your story was very funny," I'm told, "except for one bit." The old smoothie's reported retort on seeing the newspaper cutting: "Small man? I'm not a small man!"

Cross Jordan

Always a delight to (actually) bump into the celebrity inflatable Katie Price/Jordan, and her six-packed husband, Peter Andre. Price's third-born, Princess Tiáamii, arrived in June, and it would be understandable if the bairn has cost her ma some time under the duvet.

At Cosmopolitan magazine's Ultimate Women of the Year ceremony, Pandora asked Price if she had been nominated for an award. Price looked as if she had been told to recite Pi to 25 decimal places.

"What? I don't know." She turned to her publicist. "Am I?"

Publicist: "Yes, you are." Price: "Yes, I am, I'm just really pleased. You know, really proud."

Turning back to her publicist: "So what is it?"

The Hitch has a hairy encounter

In an attempt to escape George Galloway's description of him as a "drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay", the Vanity Fair polemicist Christopher Hitchens is undergoing a physical transformation, pursuing a "healthier, more handsome Hitch".

To this end, he was sent to the J Sisters salon in New York for a sunga wax – or, as it is known in the business, a "back, sack and crack". The 58-year-old's subsequent article is lovingly illustrated with a photograph of him naked and on his back, legs akimbo and hands together in a prayer position (ironic, given his fierce atheism), while two poor women tear clumps of fur off his nether regions.

"I was overwhelmed by a sudden excess of lava-like agony," writes Hitchens, insisting that he did not squeal. "The combined effect was like being tortured for information that you do not possess, with intervals for a (very costly) sandpaper hand-job."

Email: pandora@independent.co.uk

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