Diary: More monkey business

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The Independent Online

Even by Morrissey's considerable standards, declaring war on China has to go down as one of his more controversial decisions of late.

As you may have heard, the singer has again found himself in hot water after labelling the Chinese a "subspecies" over their treatment of animals during an interview in The Guardian. While Mozza traditionally does little to steer clear of a kerfuffle, I can't help wondering whether the old boy's memory is finally playing tricks on him. Elsewhere in the now infamous article, writer Simon Armitage states that Morrissey dismisses Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner as merely an " NME creation". Curiously, this would be the same Turner whose band received a very rare public apology from Mozza in 2006, after he acknowledged he'd been wrong to cast doubts on their sudden success. "I actually quite like the Arctic Monkeys and whatever I said was said with tender, avuncular concern," he later explained. Then he added: "I really should shut it." You see, China, he's an old softie really!

* Having again found himself at the centre of phone-hacking allegations dating back to his days at the helm of the News Of The World, No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson has so far been able to rely on the vocal support of many a government colleague. Only yesterday, Schools Secretary Michael Gove insisted their man had "no case to answer", despite Coulson coming under fresh pressure courtesy of claims in The New York Times last week.

Among the cabinet members likely to struggle to offer such a confident defence of the embattled former tabloid editor is Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, who has proved more keen than most to highlight potential skeletons in the Coulson cupboard in the past. Last year, when he was the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman, Huhne announced: "It's extraordinary that the Leader of the Opposition, who wants to be Prime Minister, employs Andy Coulson who, at best, was responsible for a newspaper that was out of control and, at worst, was personally implicated in criminal activity." We await Mr Huhne's latest input on the issue with interest.

* Ken Livingstone has done little to disprove critics' claims that he's developed a potentially unhealthy obsession for Tory rival Boris Johnson over the years. Now, Red Ken sheds further light on old demons, revealing he was haunted by a throwaway comment, reportedly made by Boris's sister Rachel, relating to the Johnson clan's seemingly formidable manpower. Unsettled by an article quoting Rachel bragging those Johnson boys were "hung like donkeys", Livingstone admits he went as far as to quiz her personally, only to be hastily informed she had never made such a remark. A remorseful Ken sighs: "Why did I believe it?"

* Say what you like about occasional rugby player Gavin Henson, but the troubled Welsh star sticks to his guns even in the harshest of conditions. Henson, who has split from former fiancée Charlotte Church, appears in the forthcoming ITV reality show 71 Degrees North, in which he battles sub-zero temperatures. Despite there being what I assume was a bit of nip in the air, co-stars were impressed to discover Gav still found time to apply his fake tan during filming.

* Should, as predicted, Piers Morgan's commitments across the Atlantic deprive ITV's Britain's Got Talent of a celebrity judge next year, one man is wasting little time putting himself in the frame. "I'd love to take over from Piers," helpfully declares Paul O'Grady while promoting his new Friday night chat-show on the same channel. Perhaps he's wise to get his pitch in early. Despite O'Grady's much-publicised departure from Channel 4 to join ITV's ranks, his new employers haven't proved entirely reassuring when it comes to his long-term future. With new boy Jonathan Ross arriving with his own chat-show in 2011, a spokesman recently reminded me that O'Grady is on a "one-year deal", and Ross is signed up for "2011 and 2012". Regarding O'Grady the spokesman cheerfully added: "There's nothing to say he won't be around after that." Clearly no pressure whatsoever.

Matthew Norman is away