Pandora: Tory press office in a spin over poll fix

By Henry Deedes
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:13

It's hard to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television these days without one poll or another declaring David Cameron as the Prime Minister-in-waiting.

Alarming, however, to witness the lengths that the Tory leader's footsoldiers are prepared to go to put him there.

To coincide with Cameron's holiday in Padstow, the Western Morning News ran an online poll this week to find out whether locals thought Cameron would make a good Prime Minister. With the poll going heavily against him, a zealous staffer decided to try and shore up some support.

"Dear all," he writes in an email to colleagues... "Western Morning News is running an online poll to coincide with David Cameron's visit to Cornwall, asking if he would make a good leader.

"The bad news is that, as it stands, 76 per cent have said 'no'. So, if you can spare two minutes, can you please go on and register your vote for 'yes' – it shouldn't take long to change the percentage round. Please pass this on to all helpers, campaigners and members that you can think of."

To spare his blushes, I shan't reveal the press officer's name, but his colleagues aren't best pleased with him.

"It was an over-enthusiastic response from a member of staff," says a party spokesperson when I call. "It is not something that the party would condone at all."

Another film outing for Heller

When Zoe Heller's last novel, Notes on a Scandal, was made into a film starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, the result was a big hit.

So it is no surprise to learn that the British novelist has managed to flog the film rights to her latest before it's even been published. The novel, The Believers, has been snapped up by Scott Rudin, the producer of Note s, who won this year's Best Film Oscar for No Country For Old Men.

"It'll be interesting to see if it gets an English or American director," says the London-raised Heller, who decamped to New York some years ago, having made her breakthrough in journalism on The Independent on Sunday.

Maude flees siege

For the first time since he began dragging the Tories kicking and screaming into the 21st century, Francis Maude can consider his party settled in unity.

The same, however, cannot be said about Prestbury Holdings, the financial services firm of which the shadow cabinet secretary is chairman. Rebel shareholders yesterday launched a bid to oust its chief executive.

Handily for Maude, he's currently in Rwanda and apparently out of contact.

Booker bitterness

An astonishing attack on this week's Man Booker Prize long list from Canongate publisher Jamie Byng. "I cannot respect a judging committee that decides to pick a book like Child 44, a fairly well-written and well-paced thriller that is no more than that, over novels as exceptional as Helen Garner's The Spare Room."

So take that, Tom Rob Smith, the author of Child 44. Worth mentioning also that Ms Garner's book just happens to be published by Canongate.

Shayler's sermon

What on earth is David Shayler up to these days?

I ask because a bizarre email from the ex-MI5 whistleblower arrived in Pandora's inbox yesterday.

"The Messiah will be giving a Sermon on the Mount, this Friday," it reads.

"Grateful if recipients could spread this as widely as possible. You may not want to hear a message of love and salvation but others might."

Cripes. Sounds as though the former spook has gone all David Icke on us.

Zac's award-winning hand-downs

Zac Goldsmith might be surprised to find himself on Vanity Fair's prestigious "Best Dressed" list.

The environmentally passionate Tory candidate who – to the despair of style gurus everywhere – still prefers to roll his own cigarettes, was yesterday named on the list alongside such international political heavyweights as Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni.

Goldsmith will no doubt be tickled by his inclusion, not least because, for all his squillions, most of the outfits he sports are in fact hand-me-downs.

According to friends, he prefers to wear his late father Jimmy's old suits from the Savile Row tailors Huntsman.

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