Pandora: Cherie is brought to book

Oliver Duff
Monday 26 May 2008 00:00

"Grasping" and "tacky" were among reviewers' moderate descriptions of Cherie Blair's self-invasive memoirs. Selling 3,877 copies in a week can be spun as an achievement – until one considers the newspaper serialisation; the blanket Radio 4 coverage (Book Of The Week, Woman's Hour); Cherie's reported £1m advance from publisher Little, Brown; and the decision by stores and websites to sell at half the £18.99 cover price from day one.

While this matches the entire sales to date of David Blunkett's 2006 The Blunkett Tapes (advance £385,000), it pales beside Alastair Campbell's The Blair Years – 24,000 flogged in five days after its release last July. Campbell has just crossed the 100,000 mark, bolstering his fragile ego. Cherie's book needs to far surpass that – sales of 150,000 is the estimate – for Little, Brown to recoup its lavish outlay. Perhaps Cherie can get in touch with Pandora so that we may have a wager she will not do so.

Will publishers' appetite for tediously self-serving political memoirs be diminished? And who will Cherie blame?

£20m 'Stalin's granny' gives pittance to her party

November 2006 brought rejoicing in the depleted ranks of the cash-strapped British Community Party when news broke that its chairwoman, Anita Halpin, had trousered £20m from the sale of a German expressionist painting, recovered from Berlin's Brucke Museum 70 years after it was sold by her Jewish grandmother under Nazi duress.

Halpin, known as "Rosa Klebb" for her automotive diction, or as "Stalin's granny" for her hardline views – she and husband, Kevin, were "tankies" who supported the Soviet Union's 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia – does not seem to have redistributed her sudden wealth to the comrades-in-arms, to assist the battle against evil capitalism.

Though Marx said "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs", electoral Commission records show the Halpin family has since given just £9,310 to the Communist Party of Britain.As much as half the £20m is thought to have gone to her expensive New York lawyer, David Rowland, and to the auction house Christie's. Halpin, 64 this year, is known to enjoy good red wine – nothing's too good for the workers – but perhaps the remainder went on his'n'hers tanks.

Peace, Land and Bread doesn't come cheap, as journalists at the Communist Party-owned Morning Star will testify, not exactly being overburdened with cash.

Ms Halpin declined to speak to Pandora last night, maintaining her policy of silence on the issue. Hopefully she will not become a figure of fun.

Paddy ready to fill Terry's moleskin trousers

With Terry Wogan's future in the Eurovision Song Contest looking as doubtful as that of Dustin the Turkey, Ireland's singing glove puppet, attention turns to potential successors.

The frontrunner to replace Sir Terence in Moscow next year is Paddy O'Connell, 42, the irreverent presenter of Radio 4's Broadcasting House and BBC2's Working Lunch. A gay pin-up, he already commentates on the Eurovision semi-finals, and could be found pressing flesh all week with the various musical delegations.

Wogan, 70 in August, has for 35 years been a lone voice of sanity amid the spandex beauty queens, moustachioed folk musicians and death-metal monsters – but his performance on Saturday was whiny.

The word backstage in Belgrade, as the sequins were vacuumed up, is that Wogan's trio of writers, unpaid Eurovision enthusiasts, had defected to the O'Connell camp before the final, after meeting the younger presenter four weeks ago in London's Scala nightclub.

Krishna Kate

Kate Nash is, mercifully, not a musician prone to turning to Satan, equine tranquilisers or small Everests of cocaine for inspiration. The kooky 20-year-old solo songstress, who two years ago had surgery to address tachycardia-related chest pains, was subjected to altogether holier forces on her recent US tour with The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, a parents-and-daughter "indie-vaudeville conceptual art-rock pop" band.

"They went off to a Hare Krishna temple," Nash tells Pandora at a champagne party, "and brought me back a necklace which I loved. They've written a song for me."

Hopefully it goes no further. Meaning no disrespect to the Maha Mantra – the chant most commonly associated with the cacophonic robed fellows patrolling London's Oxford Street at weekends – but the public's commercial appetite for such musical fare may be limited.

Hit the hay

Reassuring that we have, in David Miliband, a Foreign Secretary who does not spend his weekends playing toy soldiers on the living room carpet, day-dreaming about invading Burma. Pandora spotted him at the Hay Festival yesterday, wearing jeans and a cagoule, slouched at the back listening to a talk by the gay American bishop Gene Robinson. On Saturday night, Miliband was seen in conversation with the Spectator editor, Matthew d'Ancona – doubly intriguing, since d'Ancona and his wife, Sarah Schaefer, Miliband's special adviser, recently parted company; while the Speccie has dumped Miliband and endorsed the Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, to succeed Gordon Brown.

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