Pandora: How to get on with people – kill other species

Henry Deedes
Monday 22 December 2008 01:00

Eric Clapton has explained his unlikely passion for country sports. Over the past few years, Clapton has not only given regular support to the Countryside Alliance but is also the co-owner of the Mayfair shop Cordings – the favoured outfitter of the huntin', shootin' and fishin' brigade.

"I'm not really that gregarious," says the 63-year-old rocker. "And shooting with groups of people up and down the country has taught me a lot about how to get on with my fellow human beings."

Clapton, who was speaking to The Art Newspaper, recently decided to clear out his gun room. Two weeks ago, he sold 13 of his custom-made weapons at auction for just over £400,000. "It is following the same pattern as when I collected guitars – I get obsessed, then engulfed and finally narrow the collection down," he adds.

Strange and lasting silence over Gordon's sub-letting

There is still no word on whether Gordon Brown broke parliamentary rules for failing to declare more than £1,600 in rent from his constituency Labour Party, despite an official complaint having been lodged with the parliamentary watchdog some 11 months ago.

In February, the Tory MP Greg Hands wrote to the parliamentary standards commissioner, John Lyon, over claims that Mr Brown received rent from sub-letting part of his constituency office but failed to declare it in the Commons register of members' interests, even though he was already claiming public cash for renting the office.

Sub-letting premises paid for from parliamentary expenses has been banned since a scandal which forced the resignation of the former Scottish first minister, Henry McLeish, in 2002.

Although there was no suggestion that there was any financial wrongdoing by the Prime Minister, Hands believed that parliamentary rules had, nevertheless, been breached.

"It is incredible in a way. I have sent two reminders to John Lyon and each time I've been told the investigation has been ongoing," says Hands, the MP for Hammersmith and Fulham. "I must say it is very curious as on the face of it. It appeared to be an open and shut case. I can't for the life of me think what is taking so long."

Mr Lyon's office could not be reached to comment on the matter. But if it does find against the Prime Minister, he could face the embarrassment of having to re-state an entry in the MPs' register or, worse, be forced to apologise. "He has since changed the leasing arrangement of his office, which suggests the original set-up was against the rules," adds Hands.

Can Ju Ju beat Ash voodoo?

Leslie Ash knows all about putting a brave face on matters, after once suffering a near-fatal bout of MRSA, as well as a disastrous experience with plastic surgery. Last week, the actress and her husband, the former footballer Lee Chapman, opened a swanky new bar called Ju Ju in Chelsea, despite the country teetering on the cusp of recession. "Lee has lots of experience and has been very successful. He knows what he's doing and I trust him," Ash told me at the bar's launch. "I don't think the credit crunch will have much of an effect. People aren't going out to eat but they're still drinking – more so if anything."

Maybe so, but their last London venture, Teatro, did not exactly set the cobbled streets of Soho on fire. When the couple sold their shares in the private members' club back in 2004, it reported losses that year of £1m.

MPs given the chance to prove they are the second-best shark

Good news for any aspiring parliamentary pool champions out there: the Labour smoothie Shahid Malik is packing away his cue.

For three years running, the urbane Justice Minister has won the annual pool competition held in Annie's Bar at the Commons, dropping a total of only three frames along the way. This year, Malik has sportingly announced that he will not be participating. "I'm not entering this year to give someone else a chance," says the 41-year-old MP for Dewsbury.

Spending recess in the recession

Nick Clegg has ordered his foot soldiers to spend the Christmas recess working with local businesses to see how they are coping with the economic crisis. The Liberal Democrat leader has pledged to spend time at a metals factory in his Sheffield Hallam constituency. Meanwhile, Vince Cable faces the ignominy of taking orders from Michael Heseltine. He's been assigned to Hezza's publishing empire, Haymarket.

Astoria says oh bondage, up laws

The photographer Ben Westwood's campaign against the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which will outlaw "extreme pornography", has picked up another colourful supporter. Mike McKay, owner of the notorious Manumission nightclub in Ibiza, will host the closing night party at London's famed Astoria venue next month. McKay has pledged to tie up the exterior of the building in bondage material in protest against the new law.

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