Pandora: Nick kicks trigger-happy speech advisor into touch

Henry Deedes
Friday 30 November 2007 01:00

Nick Clegg's bid to become leader of the Liberal Democrats was briefly smeared by the "Calamity Clegg" affair, but he's determined his own campaign won't resort to similar pie chucking.

On Monday, one of the main speech advisors to Clegg, the novelist Nicholas Blincoe, used the Guardian's Comment Is Free website to post some of his thoughts on Clegg's leadership rival, Chris Huhne.

Billed on the piece as a "voluntary advisor to Nick Clegg's Campaign", Blincoe proceeded to lampoon Huhne as "Mr Nasty" and "Dr Evil" adding that "his dirty tricks have reflected this by being divisive, sly and underhand" and that he was "too posh to articulate every syllable in the word environment".

These comments came as a marmalade dropping moment to Clegg's camp. Keen to avoid accusations of hypocrisy after the notorious "Calamity" dossier, they swiftly washed their hands of their trigger-happy backer.

"He was self-billed," insists Clegg's campaign manager Richard Allan when I call. "Nick has in the past showed him speeches to get suggestions, as Nicholas is a writer, but that's very different to being part of a campaign team. As soon as I saw this I contacted Nicholas and said this was extremely unhelpful. He is in no way associated with the campaign and he said he would make this clear."

Since then, I notice Blincoe has now re-tagged himself as "former advisor to Nick Clegg" on the Guardian website.

Leona ready to emerge from Simon's shadow

Chart-topping pop poppet Leona Lewis has spent the past year under Simon Cowell's iron wing, but there are signs that she might one day fly the nest.

Last week, it was reported Lewis had resumed singing lessons with her childhood singing instructor Janet Edwards.

Edwards, who coached Lewis when she was just eight years old, is regularly used by Cowell's great business rival Simon Fuller's acts, such as Mel C from the Spice Girls.

According to sources within Lewis's camp, Cowell wasn't overly enthusiastic about his new protge seeking the help of one of his business rival's contacts, and instructed Lewis she would be paying for the lessons out of her own pocket.

Says a spokesman for Edwards: "It is true Janet is now working with Leona again. But as for who pays for tuition, that's always strictly between her and her clients."

At last, an apology for Boris

After years of being called on to apologise to various parts of the globe by the British press, Boris Johnson, has finally extracted an apology of his own from the fourth estate.

The BBC has been forced to eat humble pie after Bozza was recently cut off mid-flow on Radio 4's World At One.

"I just wanted to drop you a note to apologise for our handling of today's interview," writes assistant editor Nick Sutton on WAO's website. "Clearly it was far from ideal that we cut him off. Unfortunately we had just 15 seconds before the end of the programme Radio 4 would have literally pulled the plug on us if we'd carried on much longer."

It was recently reported Johnson had been told to sharpen up his media operation by George Osborne. This note will provide them one feather in their cap.

Black regards

Since contemplating life in an orange jumpsuit, Conrad Black has rarely disguised his contempt for the British media. But he is measured in his attacks.

On Wednesday evening, the former Telegraph proprietor appeared via video link at the Piccadilly branch of Waterstones to discuss his biography on Richard Nixon.

"Please do send my best to Veronica," he beamed to one young reporter from the Evening Standard, referring to the paper's editor Veronica Wadley.

It was a surprisingly cordial sentiment from Black, since Wadley is married to his biographer Tom Bower. If, as he claims he will, he does end up beating the rap, Black's still promising a showdown with Bower in the British libel courts.

Beadle's broadside at Paxo

Some might say Jeremy Beadle has been fortunate to escape the odd knuckle sandwich over the years, but could Jeremy Paxman finally be the one to provide it?

At a recent shindig, the former television presenter launched into an unprovoked attack on the BBC's foremost attack dog.

"Paxman's a pussy," he said. "He wipes his arse every night, he has bad breath he's a human. It's all just show, he's actually a pussy."

Last night, Paxman was yet to return fire, but the pair do have one thing in common. Like Paxo, Beadle also has a shaky relationship with the BBC's top brass, whom he witheringly described to me as "rich arrogant pricks who sit at the top with our money and then just make fools out of us".


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