MPs drool as Shilpa rules on visit to Parliament

Click to follow

There hadn't been such a serious outbreak of star fever in Westminster's sedate precincts since Michael Jackson visited nearly five years ago.

Shilpa Shetty has become used to being mobbed since emerging victorious from incarceration in the Big Brother house. But even she must have been taken aback by the heroine's welcome she received when she visited another institution riven by rivalry and back-biting.

During a three-hour trip to the House of Commons everyone - from the Prime Minister to visiting schoolchildren - wanted to meet the woman who had survived ordeal by Jade, Jo and Danielle.

The Bollywood star had been invited to Westminster by Keith Vaz, the extrovert former minister who had led Commons protests at her brutish treatment on the Channel 4 show Celebrity Big Brother.

When she arrived, a moment captured on live television, Mr Vaz's nine-year-old daughter, Anjali, presented traditional Indian garlands to Shetty and her mother Sunanda, who were pursued by camera crews, photographers and reporters from the British and Indian press.

The entourage was given a rapid tour of the building by the flamboyant Leicester MP. At each stage police and the Commons authorities struggled to maintain order and decorum.

First they posed for pictures in New Palace Yard, the courtyard in front of Big Ben before heading for the Commons terrace for a photoshoot with the Thames and Millennium Wheel in the background.

Farcical scenes unfolded as Mr Vaz was told only a small number of journalists could follow the group, an instruction ignored by the press pack. The frenzy led to a sharp exchange of words with the Deputy Serjeant at Arms, Muir Morton, who told the MP: "You are taking advantage of your position - you aren't supposed to be holding press conferences here."

Shetty was then ushered into the Commons chamber to cast an experienced eye on the weekly exchange of insults between Tony Blair and David Cameron at Prime Minister's Question Time. Afterwards Mr Blair cleared space in his diary to meet the Big Brother heroine, presenting her with a signed picture of the House of Commons.

Shetty described the premier as "very very sweet", explaining: "He was very kind and said I carried myself with the utmost dignity. He said he was very sad to see what I had had to go through in there [the Big Brother house."

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, also gave her a gift, while the star-struck Labour Party chairman, Hazel Blears, gushed: "You look so glamorous."

Jack Straw, the Leader of the Commons, broke off from presenting plans to reform the House of Lords to have his photograph taken with her. MPs of all parties were round the table at a lunch in Shetty's honour in the Members' Dining Room, with smoked salmon, chicken and "Shilpa's delight", a selection of desserts prepared by Commons chefs.

Summing up her chaotic day at Westminster, she said: "I thought it would be really boring, actually, but I really enjoyed it. I was pleasantly surprised."