DIARY: Bell blows total charity allowance for tea and buns with Tory Duncan

Times may be hard at Fleishman Hillard - cutbacks two weeks ago cap a couple of tough years for the US giant's UK operation - but apparently not for all involved.

It has emerged that public affairs unit GPC's flamboyant managing director, Kevin Bell, last month paid £3600 out of his own pocket in the charity auction at gay campaign group Stonewall's annual ball.

Bids for tea with Oscar winner and Labour MP Glenda Jackson had petered out at a pitiful £1800 when a heavily refreshed Bell leapt to his feet and offered to double the highest bid if a Tory could be found to share a pot of tea with him.

The only 'out' Tory MP, Alan Duncan, was at the Dorchester for the event and nodded his consent to this kind and generous offer. Bell was therefore forced to reach for his (doubtless gold-plated and diamond-encrusted) cheque book there and then.

'Tory MPs are so rare, there is a certain cache to finding one to share tea with,' Bell says, 'so even though I blew my entire personal charity budget in one night, my conscience is clear for the year ahead.'

Bell is now hoping the tea party can be turned into pre-dinner champagne, but no date has been set for the event.

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