Truth is stranger than fiction for 'sleaze scandal' Tory MP

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The Independent Online

* The Houses of Parliament have stood witness to many bizarre goings-on over the years, but few can rival recent events in the office of the new Conservative MP, Andrew Pelling.

* The Houses of Parliament have stood witness to many bizarre goings-on over the years, but few can rival recent events in the office of the new Conservative MP, Andrew Pelling.

Pelling, 45, hit the headlines in a "sleaze scandal" last month when it emerged he'd left his wife of 18 years for Lucy Slaytor, a primary school teacher and Tory activist barely half his age.

Pandora now hears that Pelling has responded to the unwanted headlines by getting Slaytor, 24, to resign from the Park Hill school in Croydon, where she taught, to start working as his secretary.

And it gets better. For Slaytor isn't the only new secretary to have recently started work in Pelling's office. Joining in the fun is one Marianne Bowness, who - wait for it - actually stood against him in Croydon Central at the general election last month.

It what must count as a parliamentary first, Bowness landed the job a few weeks after gaining 375 votes for Robert Kilroy-Silk's right-wing Veritas Party in the ultra-marginal seat. Pelling's majority is just 75, one of the smallest in the UK.

Tory sources are flabbergasted at the appointments. "I don't know what Andrew thinks he's doing," says one colleague.

"After all the sleaze business, he was supposed to be keeping his head down. This was bound to come out and it looks like a total mess."

Pelling, Bowness and Slaytor were all unwilling to comment on their professional ménage à trois yesterday.

* Bob Geldof might have stuck two fingers up at the Spice Girls - see yesterday's Pandora - but he's happy to embrace a transatlantic symbol of "girl power".

Angelina Jolie has agreed to support Geldof's Live8 campaign in the United States, and will spend the coming month attempting to lobby both George Bush, and the largely sceptical US media.

"Angelina won't just be putting her name to Live 8, she's also agreed to sacrifice a considerable amount of time for us, which is pretty much unheard of for a Hollywood star," I'm told.

"She's been talking for some time about taking a break from films, and we're delighted to be the ones to benefit from it."

Jolie's other principal worthy cause is the United Nations, for whom she is a goodwill ambassador.

Journalists wishing to interview her in that role must sign a UN contract agreeing not to write anything "disparaging, demeaning or derogatory". I doubt Geldof's spin doctors will be quite so heavy-handed.

* Last year, London 2012 hatched a plan to include its Olympic bid in the plot-line of EastEnders. Now they've gone one better: for I hear that a key consultant to the 2012 bid, Steve Parry, has just landed a part in the BBC soap opera.

Apparently, Parry - the bid's former chief press officer - is an accomplished actor, who holds an equity card, and has appeared in a handful of TV dramas.

His role (though the BBC won't confirm this) will be as the future love interest of a character called Big Mo played by Laila Morse.

"It's the talk of the office," I'm told. "We think Steve would be a fantastic boyfriend for Big Mo, and hope he'll get Albert Square onside for the final stages of the bid."

* Here's a thing. An invitation to The Spectator's summer party lands on Pandora's desk, asking me to RSVP to one Claire Eaves.

Previous Sextator "stiffies" - as such invites are (aptly) known - ordered guests to reply to the magazine's publisher, Kimberly Fortier. But that was before la Fortier's liaison with David Blunkett splashed her across the news pages.

Not only did Blunkett attend last year's Speccie bash, he also took drinks in Fortier's office beforehand, and was later photographed at her side. Meanwhile, Rod Liddle spent the evening publicly carousing with his mistress Alicia Monckton - a display that set off its own avalanche of fruity headlines.

Pandora says: top that this time, you randy old goats!

* Now then, now then! Sir Jimmy Savile, 78, is taking on a new job as the "face" of Velcro. Unlikely though it sounds, he's been headhunted on the basis that the stuff was used to fasten Jim'll Fix It badges during the 1980s.

Speaking from his home in the Scottish highlands, Sir James tells me that - depending on the success of forthcoming newspaper projects - he may even feature in the brand's TV advertisements.

"It's all a bit of fun, and it's non-controversial," he says. "You can't do anything these days without getting into trouble, but I won't go wrong with this.

"Where I live, halfway up a mountain in Glencoe, Velcro is part of life, because you need it for mountaineering. In winter, it's too cold to fiddle around with buttons."

And there I was thinking he only wore shell-suits.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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