Vultures circle round Haddock's Grimsby seat

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The Independent Online

* I hear of a wonderful Angry Spouse incident in Grimsby, involving the Labour MP for Selby, John Grogan.

Grogan will lose his Yorkshire constituency at the next election because of boundary changes. He has refused to rule out standing elsewhere, and is said to be one of the sharks lurking near the Grimsby home of Austin Mitchell MP, 72. (Mitchell's services to Grimsby include temporarily changing his name by deed poll to "Austin Haddock" to boost the local fishing industry.)

Mitchell's spirited wife, the journalist Linda McDougall, recently collared Grogan and told him that her husband has no intention of standing down, "which is such a shame for all these people who have been visiting Grimsby recently for a look about". (Translation: we know where you live.)

McDougall tells me: "It is true, I did have a private chat with John Grogan for a couple of minutes and told him Austin would be standing again. I told him that we have lots of viewings - it's a bit like having a house for sale. Or not for sale, as in this case."

She has spoken with the similarly-afflicted Crewe MP Gwyneth Dunwoody, 76, about forming a little club to fend off unwanted parliamentary visitors.

McDougall adds: "No one has been daft enough yet to openly say, 'Kill off your husband so we can move in.'"

How Roman.

* The BBC's Kenya-based wildlife presenter Saba Douglas-Hamilton daughter of the zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, has received a clawing over her advertising of Nissan Adventure 4x4s.

As a danger to African wildlife, climate change is second only to human encroachment. So Saba's decision to depart from her usual fare - Big Cat Diary and elephant documentaries - to promote high carbon-emitting 4x4s prompted outraged correspondence.

Says one letter-writer: "Saba sent me a very terse and belligerent e-mail reply, explaining that she needed a 4x4 for her off-road work in East Africa. But that was odd because what she did was make an advert aimed at people in the UK who will never go anywhere near a field."

This particular scientist was surprised, then, to receive a second e-mail from Douglas-Hamilton recently, saying that she'd had a re-think and would not be promoting 4x4s again.

Gratifyingly honest.

* The recent headlines about "Christmas airport hell" prompted one reader to write in, recalling an unpleasant travel experience. As coincidence has it, the tale concerns an old friend of this column, Simon Fanshawe - the author of a guide to modern manners, who readers may remember asked his friends to pay £35 to come to his birthday party and subsequently unleashed a puce, four-letter rage upon Pandora.

"I once encountered the great man on the train to Brighton," explains the self-described "Fannyologist".

"He started screaming over a political disagreement. The carriage listened in astonishment. People having phone conversations held their mobiles in our direction so their friends could hear.

"There were so many F-words that he could have put enough money in a swear box to pay for his own party." Goodwill to all men!

* I hear that the Scottish Nationalist Party's IT department received humbugs instead of Christmas bonuses this year, after somehow contriving to delete crucial party texts.

"They lost loads of files and don't have them backed up," chuckles a mole. "The press office rang the technician in a flap saying that their computer had broken and lost various important documents.

"The copy of the SNP's manifesto was saved on the same machine, and that's gone as well." (So now they don't stand for anything.)

Downing Street is experiencing some information technology difficulties as well, apparently - vanishing e-mails and the like.

* Sympathy-cooing in the Knightsbridge salon of coiffeur-to-the-rich, Paul Edmonds. The stylist, who has dressed the hair of Madonna, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson and Margaret Beckett, fractured his arm the week before Christmas, putting him in plaster and out of action for the busiest trading period. (Skilled as he is, one-handed styling would not go down well. They don't tend to like "choppy" cuts in that part of town.)

Says Edmonds: "I wasn't drunk. I slipped on some leaves." He adds that it would have been worse had he not finished filming the latest series of the BBC's What Not to Wear, for which he disciplines badly behaved follicles.

Apologies for the Christmas cracker punchline ... but after 20 years of Knightsbridge salons, celebrity clientele and a television programme, he's finally got his big break.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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