'Awkward' Kate may be hounded out by activists

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The Independent Online

* Kate Hoey's reign as Queen Bee of Labour's so-called "awkward squad" of off-message MPs could be about to enter its final chapter.

Party activists opposed to the former sports minister's support for hunting have launched a campaign to have her deselected as MP for Vauxhall, the constituency she has served for 17 years.

Citing her decision to take up the post of Chairman of the Countryside Alliance, the "Hoey Must Go" campaign intends to put up a rival candidate when she seeks re-selection.

That could be as soon as next year. Labour MPs were sent a letter this week, saying that they must decide if they intend to stand at the next general election by the middle of September. Previously the deadline was December.

"Countryside Alliance supporters campaigned against Labour candidates at the last election," says Chris Gale, of Hoey Must Go. "We're sick of a Labour MP heading up an anti-Labour organisation."

Hoey, for her part, intends to fight them all the way. "I'm not bothered," she says.

"I've got a very good relationship with my local party, partly because I vote against the Government so often. This sounds big-headed, but I am a very good MP."

In a rare instance of cross-party consensus, local Tories agree.

"Kate's constituents love her," concedes Stuart Barr, chairman of Vauxhall Conservatives. He added: "If Labour won't have her, we certainly will."

* The BBC last week unveiled its next "big thing" - a £20m feature film about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

And now, the backlash. Patriotic critics of the flick - working title, The Other Boleyn Girl - are upset by the decision to cast Hollywood stars in the title roles.

Natalie Portman a twinkly American, will play Boleyn while the Australian star Eric Bana has been cast as our most famous Tudor monarch.

Some reckon this to be a bit much, since it may see licence-payers' money used to "bastardise" British history.

The historian and professional rude person David Starkey is among those with reservations.

"It's another example of how all historical figures have to be portrayed on screen with an American accent to appeal to an American audience," he says.

He adds: "It's slightly strange, but then I suppose the Tudors are universal figures."

* Ian McShane - the actor best known as Lovejoy - plays dishevelled journalist Joe Strombel in Woody Allen's new film, Scoop.

Some reports have suggested that he modelled the character on Boris Johnson; others cite the late Ross Benson. McShane, top, claims otherwise.

"I think I actually modelled my look slightly after that enfant terrible Christopher Hitchens," he tells a US interviewer. "He's the old British hack who you tolerate in this country, whose politics seem to have taken a large degree swing, but he's well worth a look at."

Johnson, bottom, may regret being passed over. But, looks-wise at least, he and Lovejoy are as chalk to cheese.

* When Tony Blair finally does limp off into the political sunset, chances are that he'll join Cherie on the (lucrative) lecture circuit.

On Tuesday, Labour MPs were e-mailed a confidential briefing by John McTernan, the PM's political secretary. "Today, the PM met Prince Saud this morning [sic]," it read. "Later, he is in the East Midlands for the second of his lecture tours."

It's a strange turn of phrase. "When Blair tours a region, it used to be described as a ministerial visit," notes one recipient. "Now, it's called a lecture tour, and members of the public are invited to attend.

"The old dog is obviously getting into practice, so he can cash in - a la William Hague - after stepping aside as leader."

* One of Kevin Spacey's dogs is responsible for yet another diversion to the drudgery of everyday life. A pooch called Slaight - overweight, despite moonlight walking trips - was acquainted with the late actor Jack Lemmon. In an interview with the magazine Hollywood Life, Spacey recalls touring the US with Lemmon during the 1990s.

"When we were doing a play together on the road, Jack would go golfing in the afternoon with his expensive embroidered golf bag," he says. "One day, I was walking my 97-pound dog named Slaight, and I stopped to talk to him. A few moments later we noticed Slaight had taken a piss on the bag. Jack didn't say anything - he just looked at me and growled."

At least he didn't mug you, Kevin.