Another legal battle looms for litigious Barclay brothers

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The Independent Online

On the day their flagship newspaper was ordered to pay £150,000 in damages to George Galloway, the Daily Telegraph's owners, Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay, have launched a libel action of their own.

* On the day their flagship newspaper was ordered to pay £150,000 in damages to George Galloway, the Daily Telegraph's owners, Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay, have launched a libel action of their own.

They intend to sue the Evening Standard over an article that claimed they were selling The Spectator magazine because of the "adulterous antics" taking place at its Doughty Street offices.

Andrew Neil, who was recently appointed chief executive of The Speccie, yesterday disclosed details of the move.

" The Spectator is not for sale," he said. "They ran this story without checking with us first, and then added a denial in a later edition, when I called up to tell them it was totally wrong.

"I said I wanted more than that and it was pulled from the last edition. However my proprietors are still furious and have started legal action against the Evening Standard for printing lies about us."

It's not the first time the Barclay brothers have taken on rival newspaper groups, although most previous cases have revolved around protecting their personal privacy.

In a further twist, various well-placed sources for the story have been suggested on Fleet Street, including the biographer Tom Bower, who is married to the Standard's editor, Veronica Wadley.

However he strongly denied this yesterday: "Absolutely not. Totally wrong. I had nothing to do with it," he said.

* CAROLE CAPLIN might have finally been "frozen out" by Downing Street, but her high heels are still clattering noisily down the corridors of power.

On Wednesday, Cherie Blair's former style guru was to be found in the House of Commons, fronting a campaign against an EU directive that will outlaw most homeopathic medicines.

Her mentor for the day was Chris Grayling, a Tory MP. In a speech to Parliament, he even cited Caplin's support as a reason the Government was wrong on the issue.

"Carole has said she'll help out on this whenever she can," Grayling explained later.

"She came to our reception at the Commons and made a vehemently anti- Government speech.

"I shall give her a call on Monday, to fix a date for us to get together and plan the next stage of our campaign."

* GENERAL SIR Mike Jackson, Britain's most senior soldier, introduced himself to the aptly named Lady Strange at a recent cocktail party. "Hello, I'm Mike Jackson, and I run the Army," he said. "And very badly, too," came the hereditary peer's reply.

In an effort to see if the two have any "previous," Pandora telephoned Strange's country seat - Megginch Castle in Perthshire - yesterday. Unfortunately, she was "missing" somewhere inside the medieval pile. "Try again just before lunch," I was told, at half past four in the afternoon.

* THE BRITISH embassy in Rome received a curious request when David Blunkett was taking his summer holidays there in August: they were asked to help supply him with a tandem. "It caused a lot of gossip at the time," I'm told. "Firstly, we were fascinated to learn he was a cyclist. Secondly, it's unusual for us to deal with a minister's holiday."

The Home Office said yesterday that - although it isn't mentioned in the Register of Members' Interests - the tandem was a gift from the Italian Interior Minister, Giuseppe Pisanu.

"David offered to pay, but the minister insisted it was a gift," I'm told. "The embassy was only involved in that the Italian Interior Ministry called them to find out where he was staying."

* JANET WATCH" Could Janet's star be fading? Ladbrokes has lengthened the odds on her winning I'm a Celebrity from 6/1 to 12/1, amid strong support for the royal butler Paul Burrell. The comedian Joe Pasquale remains the 6/1 on favourite. "The audience can obviously only take a certain amount of moaning," reckons the bookmaker.

Last night - when Antonio Fargas was evicted - won't have helped. She got into an argument with her male colleagues over the best way to carry a chest. "Oh bollocks! It's easier with a pole," she said. "Do you know what? Sometimes, just sometimes, don't be stereotypical men. It would be fabulous."

Eviction or not, Janet won't be off our screens for long: in the new year, she's in a Channel Five reality show called So You Think You Can Teach, alongside Tamara Beckwith and the actor who plays Barry in EastEnders.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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