Bigmouth Tonge makes a Stone Age blunder

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When Jenny Tonge opens her mouth, connoisseurs of the good, old fashioned political gaffe reach for their notebooks.

In 2004, the Liberal Democrat "firebrand" was sacked from the front bench after saying of Palestinian suicide bombers: "If I had to live in that situation, I might just consider becoming one myself."

Now Tonge, who was later created Baroness Tonge of Kew, has managed to put her foot in it all over again. This time, she's caused offence by describing African tribesmen as "primitive" and "Stone Age."

The comments, made during last week's House of Lords debate on Botswana, have caused offence to campaigners working to preserve the tribesmen's traditional way of life.

A month ago, the pressure group Survival International launched a campaign against the use of pejorative terms such as "primitive" and " Stone Age."

It was backed by a host of celebrities and respected journalists, including John Pilger, John Simpson, Colin Firth and Julie Christie. They have now written an indignant letter to Tonge, asking for her to apologise for the comments, during a discussion of the tribesmen's hunting methods.

According to Hansard, Tonge said their "primitive" way of life is: "great if you are a successful bushman, but not so great for the bushwomen and bushchildren, who have a right to healthcare and education and may not want to stay in the Stone Age."

* Grayson Perry's public-speaking engagements are not what you might call occasions for the faint-hearted. At a recent lecture organised by the Literary Review, the transvestite potter spoke eloquently about: "being a bona fide sexual pervert".

Strange, then, to learn that Perry has been invited to address an audience at the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon.

The occasion will be the unveiling of one of his artworks, Print for a Politician, which has been acquired for an undisclosed sum by the Commons Works of Arts Committee.

"Perry usually does ceramics, but this is it's a massive great etching about 2 1/ 2 metres wide, of a sort of landscape," reports an organiser.

"Grayson will be giving a short talk about his work, and about winning the Turner Prize, before taking questions from the floor.

"Suffice it to say, he will be under strict instructions to watch his potty mouth." Shame!

* Ian McEwan, AS Byatt, and a dozen lofty authors boycotted the recent London Book Fair in protest at the organisers' links to the arms trade.

The furore, reported by this column (among others), caused unwelcome headlines for the event's hosts, Reed Exhibitions.

They were publicly castigated by the writers, who published an open letter, pointing out that Reed also organise Britain's biggest arms fair.

Now, the fightback: PR Week reports that Reed have hired a swanky PR firm, Luther Pendragon, to handle its: "crisis management."

Nice try. But it'll take more than a bit of spin to change the minds of Byatt, McEwan and their principled chums.

* The advent of gay weddings has allowed some peers of the realm to indulge in displays of vulgar one-upmanship.

Not so Sir Derek Jacobi. He recently celebrated a "CP" with his long-term boyfriend, Richard Clifford.

Despite being offered glossy magazine deals, the veteran actor opted for a low-profile, quickie wedding.

"I've now been there, done that, and got the T-shirt," he tells me. "We just went to the registry office, signed a bit of paper and it was all over."

"We did not have a bit party, but we had 25 friends to lunch. It was very quiet though, all over in a morning."

For his next trick, newly-married Sir Derek will work with one our nation's great adulterors. He stars in John Mortimer's A Voyage Around My Father at the Donmar.

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