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What with being the first contestant to be voted out of the Big Brother house, not to mention facing ongoing calls to be burned at the stake by the Daily Mail, it's proved a fraught few days for Speaker's wife Sally Bercow. So, amid these troubled times, what could be more welcome than the sight of her very own knight in shining armour triumphantly emerging over the horizon with the express intention of putting Sally's numerous enemies to the sword? "Pray, who could this valiant warrior be?" I hear you ask. "Why, I think it's our favourite Estonian and glamour model-botherer Lembit 'Lancelot' Opik!" Oh! comes the admittedly deflated reply. Still, it's a bank holiday and Hugh Grant didn't have the decency to return my (numerous) calls. "There's a difference between having depth and being a celebrity," declares Lembit, himself a reality television reject of note. "Sally has something to say. I supported her decision to go on the programme. My advice to Sally would now be to pursue any libel actions." Her weary other Senor Bercow would be wise to keep the impressionable Sally away from this man's mysterious charms.

Beckham inspired by 'best ever team spirit' in build-up

David Beckham believes the team spirit in the England camp is the best he has ever known as they prepare for their first match in the World Cup in 10 days' time.

Laing chief leaves to pursue a literary life

The chief executive of John Laing, the construction group, surprised investors yesterday by announcing he was quitting the company after seven years, to pursue other interests such as writing.

Hamas official is caught trying to smuggle £440,000 into Gaza

A senior Hamas official on Friday tried to sneak 639,000 euros (£434,000) into the Gaza Strip, hiding 500-euro bills in a white pouch tucked under his shirt in the first major cash smuggling attempt by an increasingly desperate Hamas government choked by Western economic sanctions.

Illegal immigrants employed by Home Office

The Home Office faces the ultimate embarrassment as five illegal workers were caught cleaning the offices of the immigration service.

Round-up: Lancashire centuries take edge off Harmison's comeback

Lancashire continued their fine C&G Trophy form with a 125-run victory over Durham at Old Trafford yesterday. Mark Chilton's side, who have now won four matches out of four, posted 307 for 5 before bowling the visitors out for 182.

Tories leaders prepare to oppose terror Bill

SENIOR TORIES are poised to oppose "draconian'' emergency legislation by Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, to impose control orders without charge or trial on suspected terrorists.

Tories press Howard to oppose ID cards

Michael Howard was facing a rift in the Tory party over identity cards yesterday as senior figures urged him to declare opposition to Labour's plan.

Immigration poses threat to British values, warns Davis

David Davis warned that "treasured" British values of tolerance were threatened by "uncontrolled immigration" yesterday as he committed a Tory government to heavy cuts in the numbers allowed to settle in this country.

Humberside police chief to return - and then retire

David Blunkett has agreed to reinstate the beleaguered Chief Constable of Humberside on condition that he retires within six months.

Sleaze row over rail regulator's new job

Tom Winsor, the former rail regulator, was caught up in a row last night over moves by Tony Blair to weaken anti-sleaze measures on ministers and civil servants cashing in on their expertise with private companies.

Howard's rating as Tory leader falls to an all-time low, poll shows

Satisfaction with Michael Howard's performance as Conservative leader has hit an all-time low according to an exclusive MORI poll for The Independent on Sunday.

Agency paid pounds 17m to demolish homes for cancelled road banned

THE HIGHWAYS Agency paid more than pounds 17m for 200 houses affected by a road scheme and demolished them - just before the project was cancelled, the Government's spending watchdog revealed last night.

Councils told to `map out' lives of children in care

A BILL to protect the 50,000 children in local authority care will be announced in the Queen's Speech today. The legislation is intended to stop them from ending up on the streets and turning to crime.

Auditors reject Brussels accounts over pounds 3bn errors

ERRORS IN the accounts of the European Commission reached a total value of pounds 3bn last year, the European Union's auditors said last night.
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