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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 16:18 GMT
The Shilpa show hits the Commons
Sketch
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Forget any clash of cultures - when Shilpa Shetty visited Westminster it was a head-on collision between glamorous celebrity and, well, politicians.

Shilpa Shetty
Ms Shetty had politicians queuing up to meet her

The Indian star and winner of Celebrity Big Brother proved beyond doubt that what many MPs really want, really really want, is for a bit of magical showbiz glitter to rub off onto them. They were falling over themselves to meet her.

For once - and thanks to the overwhelming good sense and decency of CBB voters - the celebrity being feted by the likes of Tony Blair, John Reid, Hazel Blears and Harriet Harman seemed entirely deserving of the attention.

Engulfed by a media scrum as she wafted into Westminster, Ms Shetty displayed the same grace and poise which saw her defeating Jade Goody and her friends in the Channel 4 show.

More brutal

Her first trial was a photo opportunity underneath Big Ben as the long-delayed British winter did its best to deep-freeze the assembled media - including 23 journalists visiting from India especially for the occasion - into a single solid mass of camera lenses and woolly microphones.

In a white coat and sari, Ms Shetty herself suffered goose bumps - but only, she insisted, from hearing the chimes of the famous clock as it struck 11 overhead.

He was very sweet

As her host, Leicester's Keith Vaz, did his best to usher her on to her next appointment, for which she was running dangerously late, she continued to politely answer all questions being fired at her and even sign a couple of autographs - one from a representative of one of the UK's poshest papers (is nobody immune?).

Then, to prove there really were things more brutal than the Big Brother house, she attended prime minister's question time.

Tradition states that MPs on the floor of the chamber are banned from looking up at the public gallery or acknowledging anyone's presence there. But dozens of pairs of eyes flicked skywards.

Breaking point

And by some extraordinary coincidence, there were occasions during the exchanges in which all three party leaders were able to express their abhorrence at all things racist.

Bullying of course, is an entirely different matter, and David Cameron did his best to bully the prime minister over his absent Chancellor.

Shilpa's verdict was characteristically polite. Asked later at another chaotic, open air press conference about the differences between the Big Brother house and the House of Commons, she declared: "They are way polite in there (the Commons), they get to leave and they know what's going on in the outside world."

Shilpa Shetty
Ms Shetty was greeted by a media scrum
Well, they get to leave anyway - dragged out kicking and screaming on occasion.

After a brief meeting with the "very sweet" prime minister - who presented her with a portrait of the Commons signed by himself and Cherie - then Tessa Jowell, also "sweet", it was lunch with a string of ministers and opposition MPs.

By the end of her visit, the tempers of the Commons authorities were severely tested thanks to the size of the media presence.

Ms Shetty, who managed to remain poised and polite throughout, was literally besieged on the steps of Portcullis House, answering questions like: "Who would you prefer as your next leading man, Tony Blair or David Cameron?"

Showing the diplomacy that was stretched to near breaking point during those trying times in the Big Brother house, she left us all guessing, saying: "Oh My God, I'll leave that one to him (Mr Vaz)."




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