Undiplomatic incident causes alarm at the Foreign Office

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The Foreign Office doesn't exactly court controversy, so there will be a chorus of alarm in diplomatic circles at news of an unfolding scandal amid the Regency splendour of Carlton House Terrace.

The Foreign Office doesn't exactly court controversy, so there will be a chorus of alarm in diplomatic circles at news of an unfolding scandal amid the Regency splendour of Carlton House Terrace.

The Foreign Press Association - a trade body representing foreign journalists in the UK - has been rocked by the sudden resignation of a Mohammed Ben-Madani, a member of its governing committee.

Mr Ben-Madani quit last week, claiming to have witnessed serious financial impropriety at the organisation, which is subsidised by the Foreign Office and occupies one of its grandest buildings in London. In a resignation letter to members, he makes a series of allegations concerning shoddy book-keeping, cronyism and theft. The five-page memo has been copied to Foreign Office staff.

The row may threaten the FPA's annual press awards, a glitzy affair at which Alastair Campbell and Clive Anderson recently appeared. To the dismay of some members, several thousand pounds were paid to secure their services.

The FPA is understood to strongly dispute Mr Ben-Madani's claims, but yesterday refused to discuss his departure. Its president Catherine Mayer said: "It's not something that is to be commented on."

June Sarpong recently interviewed Tony Blair for Channel 4's "yoof" show, T4. Now she's taking on an even tougher cookie: Naomi Campbell.

The modish TV presenter is currently following the supermodel around London and New York, for a similarly highbrow interview.

"After Tony Blair, I wanted to do something a bit different - so I got in touch with Naomi," she tells me.

"We're going to do a show in the same style as the Blair one; she'd seen that and said she liked it.

"The amazing thing is how down-to-earth she is. Of course, you get the diva stuff - she kept us waiting 45 minutes in Jasper Conran for our first meeting - but she's happy to chat, and hasn't hit me with a telephone yet, either."

After this light relief, Sarpong - speaking at the Arts Club in Dover Street - plans three further programmes on world leaders.

"I'm sworn to secrecy about their names for the moment," she adds.

The actor David Threlfall - who plays Mancunian superhero Frank Gallagher in Shameless - is anxious to expand his professional repertoire.

Threlfall, top, has launched a charm offensive on Sir Trevor Nunn, bottom, in an unlikely bid to gain a role in a West End musical.

"I've done two of Trevor's plays now, Nicholas Nickleby [in 1979] and Skellig, which was back in January, but what I really want is a part in one of his musicals," Threlfall tells me.

"He says I have a crap singing voice, so he won't have me. He's one of my closest friends and I hope he was being facetious, but maybe he's got a point."

Threlfall, who was speaking at the opening of Someone to Watch Over Me, was seen dining with Nunn on Tuesday. Could his lobbying be about to take effect?

Last chance to enter Pandora's topical poetry competition, launched on the back of Benjamin Zephaniah's noble attempt to jazz up the (intellectually moribund) airwaves of MTV.

Readers must compose an honorific marking Ozzy Osbourne's recent retirement from reality television. My bedside table is already groaning with submissions; an effort from a Mr Turner of Kidderminster catches the eye.

It's a simple - yet poignant - Haiku: Farewell, Osbournes. "Dog shit on the floor/ Somewhere a man is shouting/ 'Fuck!' at a blank screen."

Further entries must be in by noon tomorrow. The winner will be announced on Monday. He or she will receive a bottle of Dom Perignon 1996, and a personal appraisal of their work by Mr Zephaniah himself.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Bernard Jenkin's marital home! The Tory frontbencher has given an interview to the East Anglian Daily Times, revealing - in more detail than is surely necessary - the curious dynamic underpinning his domestic arrangements.

It emerges that Jenkin's "childhood hero" was Spiderman, and that his "closest political ally" is his wife, Anne.

To the question "Do you have a nickname?", he replies: "Badger, but you will have to ask Anne why."

Sadly, Mrs Jenkin wouldn't talk when Pandora called yesterday ("There's somebody at the door; I'll have to call you back"), so we'll put it down as a reference to Lord Lamont - as opposed to the couple's longstanding interest in naturism.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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