Pandora: Miliband meets his match

Oliver Duff
Thursday 24 April 2008 00:00

Please do not accuse Her Majesty's Arsenal-supporting Foreign Secretary of enlisting in football's prawn sandwich brigade. Bambino David Miliband made a surprise appearance at an Arngrove Northern League Division Two match, between his local amateur side, South Shields ("the Mariners"), of which he is president, and Norton and Stockton Ancients.

Despite arriving at the ground late, at half-time, he insisted on paying the entry fee of £4. Followed through the rusty turnstiles by three bulging security goons, Miliband insisted: "Charge them full as well."

Sadly, South Shields were stuffed two-nothing. But no matter: the team has been promoted anyway after finishing second this season – a mere 197 places from qualifying for the Champions League alongside Manchester United and the other top guns.

Newspaper deal heralds the revenge of 'Lord Cashpoint'

As if Gordon Brown did not have enough to think about – heading off a backbench revolt, preparing for local elections, and the inflamed vote on the 42-day detention of terror suspects – Lord Levy will dump a metaphorical skip of manure at the gates of Downing Street as early as this weekend.

The peer, Tony Blair's twice-arrested chief fund-raiser, has signed a six-figure deal with The Mail On Sunday to serialise extracts from his explosive forthcoming book, A Question Of Honour: Inside New Labour And The True Story Of The Cash For Peerages Scandal. The exposé, the first to dish the political dirt on the Blair years, hits the shelves on Monday 12 May.

But the juiciest content will be printed over three successive Sundays by the Sabbath title. Early leaks suggest that Lord Levy, who has refused to show the manuscript to the Cabinet Office vetting committee, may try to imply that Brown knew about the dodgy loans to the Labour Party.

The serialisation deal was sealed and toasted on the evening of 10 April at the Mayfair fish restaurant, Scott's, where Levy and his agent were entertained by The Mail On Sunday editor Peter Wright. Levy was apparently "bumptious" and "in very high spirits". The trio were most amused to discover the editors of three rival national newspapers dining (separately) at other tables in the restaurant.

The Mail On Sunday last night declined to comment. A source close to the deal indicated that we could "expect fireworks in the very near future".

Blades out for Serota in petition to No 10

Sir Nicholas Serota's 20-year reign at the Tate has been dramatic: the expansion of the gallery, the contentious Turner Prize; rejection of Charles Saatchi's advances; breaking charity law in buying for £600,000 work by the then-Tate trustee Chris Ofili; the war with the Stuckist figurative painters.

Will he carry on? In a new twist, the Prime Minister is being petitioned on the No 10 website "to state that he will not give his approval to any re-appointment of Serota as Director of the Tate gallery". The proposer is the Stuckist co-founder Charles Thomson, who says: "This is the first time in 20 years that the public have been given a chance to say what they think of Serota's policies of acquiring decaying sharks and tins of shit."

Sir Nic – pictured above left with the former Culture Secretary James Purnell – will be 62 on Sunday. The son of a Labour health minister under Harold Wilson, he was appointed in 1988 on a seven-year contract, which was renewed in 1995 and 2002. The Tate trustees must decide by 31 August whether or not to extend his command beyond 2009. The Museums and Galleries Act 1992 states that the appointment requires "the approval of the Prime Minister".

The Private Eye institution Barry Fantoni has signed the petition. The Tate declined to comment.

Sidcup to Sunset Boulevard

Some encouragement for any drama students out there from the pouting lips of the implausibly-monikered actress Lake Bell. Before Hollywood and dates with Colin Farrell beckoned, the New Yorker was well acquainted with life in grotty digs.

"I studied [drama] at Rose Burford College here in London and lived above a chip shop in Sidcup at one point," said Bell, 29, at the West End premiere of What Happens In Vegas – her new rom-com set in the unlikely neon environs of Sin City. "Then I moved to Charlton."

South-east London is far from the twinkling lights of Tinseltown, but Bell insists that she loved every minute. "It was amazing, we got to go to all these crazy parties with drama students! I had a little Mini – I did the whole thing."

Question time

Fetch the trumpet! Time to announce the winner of the "killer question" that Gary Lineker will be asked at today's Sporting Turn The Tables lunch for Cancer Research UK. Readers' suggestions have been funny and downright intrusive. Frances Haddon demands: "What was it you didn't like about The Cliff [restaurant] in Barbados on Valentine's Day that made you leave so soon?"

The winner comes from Graham Gardner, of Beeston, Nottingham: "What reason, apart from the money, can you give for your encouraging children to eat unhealthy food like crisps? Should you not be persuading them to eat more healthily?" A bottle of fizz to you, Gardner, as well as the satisfaction of knocking off Lineker's pearly grin.

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