Back in blighty after a short stint in France at the Nuits Sonores techno/indie music festival where I appeared in a table ronde (round table) debate on the subject of Multicultural music in London. The discusson (in French) went ok even if the table was oblong. One thing I steered clear of though was the minbar. I’ve never used one to date and have no intention of doing so.

Having digested the latest Carla Bruni/ Nicholas Sarkozy gossip I see that the expenses business still rumbles on this side of the channel. The day I left it was “What did Hazel Blears do that Purnell and Hoon didn’t?” The answer is of course that she bought Kit Kats from the minibar at a rather inflated £2.50 a pop. She is on the record as defending these as valuable nutritional intake on the days when purchased. Tory MP Alistair Burt has frequently succumbed to the lure of the minibar too – repeatedly claiming for cashews and mixed nuts. Burt has some fairly predictable MP traits: his wife is on the payroll and he was allowed to keep an overpayment of £1,000, presumably an adminstrative error.

Meanwhile cutting throug the froth of it all Chris Paul reports that in Blears’ backyard Labour has had a resounding vote of confidence in two decisively won Salford borough by-elections. CP calls this “Hazel’s first test in the court of public opinion”. The results demonstrate that despite all the poor polls and hoo-ha, in real elections where actual votes are being cast, Labour support is holding up – albeit on a very poor turnout. Nonetheless even if the BNP coming third in Irwell Riverside got nothing this time round, a turnout of 17% repeated at Euro level would only benefit Nick Griffin – who I was oddly at the same count with in 2004 during his last Euro attempt. Political Betting exposes a rougue poll by the Express predicting that he will fare better this time based on pretty much no evidence although they cite Salford in the accompanying report.

The Electoral Commission’s current ad campaign urges “don’t let anything stop you voting in the European election”. The worry is that politics in general and MP’s expenses in particular will deter people from turning out. All decent thinking people should do what we can to stop a collapsed turnout exaggerating the far right’s vote with dire consequences.

Finally gossip update: (in case you were wondering) Bruni gave an interview in the Elysee Palace to a wimmin’s mag who were shocked to see Mr President appear to see what was going on. Apparently the two can’t keep their hands off each other. I’m a bit of a cynic and am wondering how spin doctored it was was. Judge for yourself here. Bruni also emptied out her handbag on the spot in response to a question about what she carries on her. Watch the clip here. No nuts were detected inside.