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Chris Smith in spat with local council over gay rights bash

Chris Smith's stock in the gay rights movement has never been higher, with his brave announcement last week - 20 years after he became the first MP to "come out" as homosexual - that he is HIV positive.

Strange, then, to hear of a row between the former culture secretary, right, and Islington Council, his local authority, over the recent launch of their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month.

Smith was originally asked to speak at last week's bash, at Islington Town Hall, but was then disinvited at a few days' notice. He suspects a political motive, since Islington Council is controlled by the Liberal Democrats.

"They let me know a while back that they were going to invite me, and I put it in my diary," Smith tells me.

"But then they got in touch a week before, saying I wasn't wanted, because it's a local event.

"This disregards two facts. Firstly, I am the local MP; secondly, they invited Stonewall, thereby making it a national event. Lib Dems on the council have increasingly been doing this; they also stopped my neighbouring MP, Jeremy Corbyn, turning on the Christmas lights.

Terry Kirby, a Liberal Democrat councillor who (funnily enough) was invited, yesterday denied playing politics. "We had to whittle them down to seven, and Chris was one of those we dropped," he said.

Jagger's sporting help for 2012 bid

MICK JAGGER is, perhaps unfairly, thought to be one of the meanest men in showbusiness, so it's interesting to learn that he's been signed up as an (unpaid) cultural ambassador to London's 2012 Olympic bid.

Bid chiefs were hoping that the wrinkly rocker, left, would give a freebie performance when IOC chiefs visit London next week. But sadly, I gather he has other commitments.

Nonetheless, an alternative appearance - most probably in a promotional video - has now been lined up.

"There has been a discussion between Mick and the organisers about the ways he can help support them, and an agreement has just been reached," says Jagger's agent.

"It's no secret that Mick is a keen sports fan - especially of cricket and football - and he wants to do all he can to bring the Games to London."

A Kurt critic

KURT VONNEGUT - at 82, one of America's greatest living writers - is the latest stern critic of his country's foreign policy.

In BBC2's Culture Show tonight, Vonnegut, above - speaking on the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, which he witnessed - equates the Allied bombing campaign there to current US policy in Iraq.

"Dresden was the most beautiful city in the world," he says. "The world's cities are world cities just as all rivers are world rivers and they should all be treasured.

"And here we are in Baghdad, the cradle of civilisation. I'm well educated enough to know that this is really quite something and as far as the monkeys in Washington are concerned, you know, it's an enemy town."

Shocking standards

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL'S leaked e-mail to Newsnight provides a fascinating insight into the workings of Fleet Street.

"Get on to the Mail immediately," he advised. "Campbell swears shock. Why oh why is this man allowed to live, writes [Daily Mail editor] Paul Dacre... TBWA [Labour's advertising agency] adamant nobody from the Evening Dacre spoke to them."

Strangely, when the Mail and Evening Standard reprinted this, all disparaging references to their titles were deleted.

It's a bold piece of historical revisionism, but true to form: on Tuesday, the Standard told readers it had "broken" and "reported exclusively" the story of Labour's anti-Semitic election posters.

In fact, that story was broken by Pandora and reprinted by the ES. Graciously, the newspaper's editor, Veronica Wadley, has e-mailed me, to apologise for wrongly claiming the "scoop."

You might not believe it, but beneath Michael Howard's balding, middle class exterior, there lurks a "shagger" of the Tory old school.

According to Anne Robinson (no less), Her Majesty's Leader of the Opposition spent his student days furiously sowing wild oats.

"I know that, at Cambridge, he was much loved by women, and he was a courteous and kind and rather dashing lover," she will tell Saturday's BBC2 documentary, No More Mr Nasty. "I'm often sorry that reputation has fallen by the wayside."

Asked if she is speaking from personal experience, Robinson adds: "No. I wasn't at Cambridge ... but I know people who were."

pandora@independent.co.uk www.independent.co.uk/pandora

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