Cheggers on the warpath over 'squealing pig' claim

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* A splendid spat in the Wiltshire metropolis of Newbury, between TV "personality" Keith Chegwin and a town councillor.

Just before Christmas, Paul Walter targeted the GMTV presenter (a Newbury resident) on his blog, writing: "What on earth is Keith Chegwin on?! I can imagine being excited the first time I have to give someone £20,000. But the 300th time?! After getting up at 4am?!!!! Squealing like a pig with excitement?"

Cheggers, reeling from the sucker punch, spat teeth and blood all over the bloke. He e-mailed Walter to tell him he was "appalled" and would expect such remarks from a "low-life gutter-snipe journo" (Hello Keith!) but not a local councillor.

Walter replied: "I've made an unforgivable error and humbly prostrate myself before you in an attempt to atone for my grievous calumny and seek your forgiveness. I'm so sorry." He offered to make a donation to the "TV:AM home for bewildered ex-presenters".

Detecting a note of sarcasm, Chegwin got tough. He says: "I'd never normally respond, but so many people in Newbury mentioned it to me. It was so embarrassing."

Walter has withdrawn the comments and apologised if they "suggested a sinister meaning", adding: "I want to make clear my admiration for his work on GMTV. It is clear to me that the high quality of this work is the result of fine showmanship, and nothing else."

He tells me: "Only five people read the bloody thing and one of them was Keith. I thought it was innocuous, but I don't have lawyers and don't want to upset anybody."

* Clive Owen's career as a Hollywood heart-throb is ticking along nicely.

Although the Coventry-born actor was pipped to the role of 007 by Daniel Craig, he received plaudits for his performance in Children of Men. This autumn brings Sin City 2 and also The Golden Age, in which he plays Sir Walter Raleigh to Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth I.

Yesterday brought the announcement that he has been snapped up as the "face" of a new, miraculous anti-ageing cream by cosmetics giant Lancôme.

A spokesman for the brand explains that they chose Owen, 42, because he is an "incredibly talented, intelligent and appealing man".

I hope that a previous confession doesn't scupper the deal for him.

At a West End premiere just a few months ago, he told me: "I've had tons of surgery done, but I can't say what on."

* It is safe to assume that the actress Amanda Holden, married to television's Les Dennis until she ran off with Neil Morrissey, is not set for a sudden career change to international diplomacy.

Holden, 35, wasn't enamoured with the behaviour of some South Africans when she was on location filming the second series of Wild At Heart, the ITV drama about British vets emigrating to start a game park.

"I really am not qualified to talk about it," concedes Holden (the one on the right), "but in my opinion I still think, as a country, it has a lot to learn, and I still saw lots of racism.

"If there was a black person in a shop queue then the white person would absolutely hit the roof and make that person go behind them. I have a fantastic experience with most South Africans, so this was just a minority. But it was sad to see."

Returning to shoot a third series should prove interesting.

* Six weeks ago, John Prescott announced to Parliament: "I am not a religious man." (The context was the persecution of Christians for wearing faith-based jewellery.)

Bewildered delight from the congregation at Clapham Common's Holy Trinity Church, then, at the news that Britain's second most famous atheist may bless them with his presence in a fortnight. "Everyone was excited at Sunday's service," says a worshipper, "although we are a bit surprised."

The occasion is the book launch of God's Politician, about William Wilberforce, the slavery abolitionist who necessitated Prezza's controversial cowboy sojourn on the ranch of Dome super-casino bidder Philip Anschutz.

Perhaps JP will repent his sins - if he has committed any, of course.

* Ding ding! The gloves are off in a catfight to the death between the former public school topless model Jodie Marsh and Sunday Mirror columnist Carole Malone. Marsh has laid into the waspish writer for taking part in the ongoing series of Celebrity Big Brother, uncharitably calling her a "no good, talentless hag".

"She had the cheek to abuse me for going on it and now she's in there herself," elaborates Marsh. "She's also been on Celebrity Fat Club. How embarrassing! No matter how fat (or skint) I got, you would never catch me on TV wobbling my flab about to the nation. The woman's desperate to be famous!" Pot, meet Kettle.

The pair have history: Malone took grave issue with Marsh last year after the model asked her fellow housemates whether an egg was a vegetable. Perhaps they will so horribly maim one another that neither will be able to return to public life.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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