Ephraim Hardcastle

Article excerpt

Byline: EPHRAIM HARDCASTLE

SINCE neither Peter Mandelson nor Geoffrey Robinson can expect new ministerial careers in the Commons, how about seats in the Lords in Tony Blair's Dissolution Honours List? Two safe Labour seats would be released: Mr Mandelson's Hartlepool; Mr Robinson's Coventry North West. For Hartlepool voters used to Mr Mandelson's fancy ways, Tory turncoat Shaun Woodward, whose wife Camilla is a very rich Sainsbury heiress, might be a fitting replacement.

Chancellor Gordon Brown's ambitious adviser, Ed Balls, could be just the ticket for Coventry North West. Although the ennoblements necessary would make the late Labour Premier Harold Wilson's notorious 1976 'lavender list' seem a model of decorum by comparison, they're not inconceivable given the Government's pre-election panic mode.

THE new director of the Victoria and Albert Museum is to be Old Etonian Mark Jones, 50, head of the National Museums of Scotland. He'll need a compliant nature or a thick skin. The current director, Dr Alan Borg, has not had an easy time with the museum's Blairite chairman, Paula Ridley.

Dr Borg has been informed about his successor via a fax from the office of Culture Secretary Chris Smith.

CATHERINE Zeta Jones, (pictured on the left), is considered by some to be too pretty to play Maria Callas in the movie version of Nicholas Gage's book about the opera star, Greek Fire. Rough-diamond Russell Crowe, of Gladiator, also pictured, is felt to be right for the part of Ari Onassis. …