Brown accused over his 'anti-gay' voting record

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The Independent Online

* After a decade of prudently skirting the issue, Gordon Brown is about to be thrust to the forefront of the thorny gay rights debate.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has just become the latest Labour minister to stand accused of having a "homophobic" political voting record.

Research by The Pink News has revealed that since Labour came to power in 1997 Brown has failed to vote on every occasion that gay rights came before the House of Commons.

During all 14 votes, he was absent from the chamber, thereby failing to support (among other things) the abolition of Section 28, civil partnerships, and the Government's Equality Act. Although the workload of cabinet ministers affects their ability to attend such votes, Tony Blair managed to support four of the Bills.

Meanwhile, John McDonnell, the Hayes MP who has promised to challenge Brown for the Labour leadership, managed all 14.

Supporters of the Chancellor yesterday described the data as "a co-incidence", saying: "He's no homophobe, and never has been."

However others reckon Brown's Scottish, Presbyterian background leaves good reason to smell a rat.

"He needs to explain why he has consistently failed to vote for gay rights during his tenure as a senior member of the Labour government," says Pink News.

Before he married, Brown's own sexuality was the subject of misinformed gossip, but he is now a family man with two bonnie laddies.

* Debbie McGee doesn't just spend her days simpering prettily while a saw-wielding Paul Daniels declares: "That's magic."

The comely blonde is now a budding business entrepreneur, and has just launched her own model agency.

Debbie McGee Models was advertising for fresh "talent" on its internet site yesterday: "From six months to 70 years old, we need you!"

Her business partner, Sue Simons - who is based at the firm's shiny new offices in Bristol - tells me they're looking for models in all shapes and sizes.

"Obviously for catwalk models the women have to be six feet tall," she says, before adding (a touch confusingly), "But for work like radio, looks aren't everything. Character's far more important."

McGee was unwilling to discuss the business yesterday, since it's still in its formative stages. But I gather that Paul likes it, a lot.

* Noel Edmonds failed to be invited to appear on the closing edition of Top of the Pops this Sunday.

It's a strange call, since other former TOTP "legends" - including Sir Jimmy Savile, Janice Long and Pat Sharp - will be there, with boots blacked.

Edmonds, however, is persona non grata at the BBC after describing the decision to axe the music show as "a huge mistake".

The BBC insists no snub was intended. "We didn't want two presenters from the same era, and we'd already booked Dave Lee Travis," says a spokesman.

But Edmonds isn't bothered. Says his agent: "Noel's so busy that he wouldn't have been able to do it anyway."

* If Sir Menzies Campbell does get ejected from the Liberal Democrat leadership, his party could always turn to an even older model.

Jeremy Thorpe has emerged from the woodwork, aged 77, to write a cover article for next month's edition of The Liberal. His piece - about the Edwardian Liberals - doesn't allude to the party's current troubles. But it does mark Thorpe's first appearance for some time. "Jeremy has largely retired from public life, but this is a topic about which he's passionate and knowledgeable," says the magazine's editor, Ben Ramm. "The present lot sorely lack someone of his charisma."

By the by, it's exactly 30 years since Thorpe resigned as Liberal leader, and 27 since he was acquitted of attempting to murder male model Norman Scott.

* Another day, another staggering blow to Lord "cashpoint" Levy's already tattered credibility. The left-leaning journal Red Pepper can reveal that Tony Blair's troubled fundraiser is incapable of making a cup of coffee.

This nugget of information jollifies a Q&A interview with another former Labour fundraiser, Henry Drucker. He met Levy in 1996.

"We were in his stunningly beautiful house; he stood up throughout," he recalls. "After five minutes, Levy realised he'd forgotten something. 'Oh... I... I... should have offered you coffee.'

"My wife's out, and the servants are at the other end of the house and, er, I don't know how to make coffee."

There followed a minor disagreement. "Levy shouted at us for, I don't know, 15 minutes, half an hour," adds Drucker. "Then, literally, threw us out."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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