Wheeler taken to task over Ukip 'dithering'

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The Independent Online

* While the Labour Party's accountants might justifiably drink each evening away in a Millbank boozer, Tory bean counters can toast recent successes - notably the £30m sale of their old HQ, filling a chasm in the books, and last week's Black and White Ball, which raised £600,000.

The Conservatives' uber-donor Stuart Wheeler has recently given them cause for jitters, however. Last month it was reported that the spread-betting squillionaire, who previously enriched the Conservative coffers to the tune of about £5m, was considering decamping to the Eurosceptics at Ukip.

I hear that his politically minded youngest daughter, Charlotte, 22, was so concerned this week that Dad was about to disembark from the David Cameron express that she held an emergency dinner summit at the family home in Mayfair, wheeling in a crowd of New Blues to persuade Wheeler to stick with Dave C.

"Charlotte is at LSE and she brought a few of her friends from there around for supper on Tuesday evening," Wheeler tells me. "Some were Europhile, some were Eurosceptics. [Tory donor] Rodney Leach was also there, and we had a civilised debate.

"Unfortunately, however, I am still dithering over what to do. This has absolutely nothing to do with David Cameron. In fact, I would very much want him to be prime minister. It's just I am keen to see us taking a tougher stand over Europe."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage, whom Wheeler dined two months ago, is "highly impressive and articulate".

* With a whopping new show at the Tate Modern tackling God, sex, terrorism and themselves, when better for the subversive modern art dyad Gilbert & George to present an evening on television dedicated to their work?

Tomorrow night on the Artsworld channel, they discuss interpretation of pieces including their 1972 video In the Bush.

"We were still interested in nature then," says Gilbert no glasses. "We thought big trees are very human. So we thought we could make like little birds going in and out of the bushes."

Adds the bespectacled George: "We thought we were making a picturesque version of a life - that you fidget or move or edge through life, sometimes with purpose, sometimes without."

Gilbert: "And now it looks more like George Michael going in and out of the bushes. Everyone has different versions of what's going on in there."

George: "It was Kew, not Hampstead Heath."

* Imogen Lloyd Webber, whose father Andrew almost christened her Annunziata 29 years ago, has been writing a Single Girl's Guide to Having It All. The only problem is that she, erm, can't have it all. For realism's sake she has stayed single while completing the manual.

"Some of it is pretty racy," promises Ms Lloyd Webber, found in the Moët tent at London Fashion Week, in South Kensington. "It's about what not to do with men."

Her previous literary offerings, rejected by publishers, include a science fiction fantasy and a pre-9/11 novel about a terrorist attack in the US, about which she has commented: "I haven't looked at it since. I think what you do at 23 is probably always dreadful."

* Welcome news for the interior decorator William Banks-Blaney, a society figure on the Emerald Isle known to London's gossip columnists only since October, following his relationship with the Conservative frontbencher Greg Barker.

M'learned friends at media law scalpers Carter Ruck (shiver) have won Banks-Blaney £60,000 in damages, plus costs, from The Sun and Evening Standard. Their offending articles claimed that during his time as a salesman for Viscount Linley (the purveyor of designer furniture and nephew to the Queen), BB had received £500,000 from his boss to buy two paintings and returned neither the art nor the wonga. Tommy rot.

Says Linley director Christina Macmillan: "As a good friend of Will's, I am pleased it has been made clear the allegations were wholly inaccurate."

Adds one of Banks-Blaney's schoolfriends: "It was bad enough for Will having his private life dragged through the press, without this rubbish. Fortunately he has a wicked sense of humour."

* And we go live to Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, the flamboyant interior designer who Pandora would not entrust with a broom cupboard. In comments for The Grumpy Guide to Design, airing on BBC2 in three weeks, the dandy impertinently likens British architectural oligarch Lord Norman Foster to a graffiti artist.

"What we're allowing Sir Norm to do," says LLB, "is 'tag' the skyline. It's as graffiti-ist [sic] as what hoodies do with aerosols while hanging upside down on railway bridges. The [Foster-designed Erotic] Gherkin [aka Swiss Re building] does have an elegance ... to it. But we should be building Venice, we shouldn't be building Las Vegas."

LLB has damned Ken Livingstone's Foster-designed offices for looking "like a cheap children's party entertainer trying to juggle too many plates". Llewelyn-Bowen likes the colour purple and MDF furniture.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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