Trouble bubbles up for Gordon Brown's trusty little earner

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There is a setback to the plan hatched by Gordon Brown to use his new Child Trust Fund as a key plank of Labour's forthcoming general election campaign.

There is a setback to the plan hatched by Gordon Brown to use his new Child Trust Fund as a key plank of Labour's forthcoming general election campaign.

The scheme, which will see every child born since September 2002 presented with £250, is launched next month, with an advertising campaign from M&C Saatchi, that continues in the run-up to polling day.

Proponents of the policy are running into legal difficulties, however, since the expression "Baby Bond" - which is often used to describe it - turns out to be a registered trademark.

The Children's Mutual, which owns the trademark, has no intention of allowing it to be hijacked as a political slogan. They have therefore instructed a team of lawyers to reprimand ministers and others who might end up using it.

"We'll write to anybody who inappropriately uses the expression and protect our trademark," says a spokesman. "If necessary, we'll follow our letters with a lawyers' letter.

"Somehow, it has become common parlance, but we've already pointed this out to the Treasury. It's mostly just backbenchers and the press who use the term now."

That may, in itself, cause problems, though. By way of a publicity stunt, Labour whips have instructed MPs to present the first child born in their constituency after CTFs take effect with a bottle of champagne.

* THE ACTOR Kate Beckinsale may be questioning her decision to attend the premiere of The Aviator on Sunday wearing a collection of jewellery provided by De Beers.

The diamond company has, for some time, been targeted by Survival International, which objects to its mining practices in Africa, and yesterday fired off a spicy letter to Ms Beckinsale, left.

"We're not attacking Kate personally, as she may well be unaware of the controversy," says Survival's director Stephen Corry. "But we do think A-list celebrities ought to be a little more savvy when someone comes to them offering free diamonds."

Those celebs, according to a De Beers press release filed yesterday, include Scarlett Johansson, Naomi Watts and Halle Berry.

* TIM WONNACOTT - the convivial Bargain Hunt host and Hercule Poirot lookalike - was lunching at a hostelry in the Peak District the other day, when David Blunkett entered the room.

Noticing a celebrity in their midst, one of Blunkett's lackeys asked Mr Wonnacott, above, if he wanted to meet the (then) Home Secretary.

"Tim told him to get lost," I'm informed. "He's no fan of this government, and wouldn't be seen dead having a pint with someone like Blunkett: friends might start thinking he's a leftie."

Maybe so, though commentators are divided on which side of the political spectrum the authoritarian Mr Blunkett actually sits.

* SIMON HOGGART's alternating account of his relationship with Kimberly Quinn rings a few bells.

On Saturday night, he claimed the News of the World "scoop" about his affair was "bullshit", and on Sunday morning he declared: "It's a vile article. Of course, I am consulting my lawyers. It's just not true."

In deciding to tell such shamefaced porkies - which he could never have got away with in the long run - Mr Hoggart appears to have been following a policy first noted in his own column.

"Most of us are bad liars: nervous, bumbling and confused when we are caught out," he wrote during the 1990s. "But Neil Hamilton, like Jonathan Aitken and other serial fibbers, does so with conviction and elan. Having convinced themselves, they cannot quite comprehend that their belief does not communicate itself magically to the rest of us."

* The comedian Arthur Smith - a colleague of Simon Hoggart on Grumpy Old Men - also has his private life in the spotlight.

Smith's genitals have been insured by the producers of his new West End play to the tune of £1m.

"There's a moment in the show when he stirs a cup of tea with his penis, and if that didn't happen we'd have to refund the tickets," they say. "The premium is only a few thousand pounds and covers us for an American tour, too."

Smith is much flattered: "I suppose value for money depends on the time of day we're talking about," he tells me.

"If we're talking about first thing in the morning, it's one thing, but if I'd been swimming in cold water, I'm quids in."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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