Cherie and the Queen won't share stage at peace awards

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The Independent Online

According to a press release yesterday, Her Majesty is going to present the prize to the President of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko, at a reception at the Mansion House on 17 October, and then leave. But one Cherie Booth QC will give the keynote speech at a gala dinner later in the evening.

"Yushchenko only confirmed at the last moment and largely thanks to the fact that he'd get a Royal reception," says a source. "But there was no way that the Queen could be expected to sit through one of Cherie's bleeding-heart human rights lectures. The two women don't get on."

Yesterday, Buckingham Palace was unable to confirm the Queen's timetable for October.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "There's no problem with the two of them appearing together; I think the statement speaks for itself."

For the record, neither will be paid for turning up.

* Ricky Gervais, the star of The Office, has agreed to appear in his first advertisement. But unlike many television stars, who take the commercial buck when they're in need of some extra cash, he's opted to do it for free, to highlight the work of a charity.

"I got a call from someone at the Prostate Cancer Charity," he says. "They said would I be interested in voicing a radio campaign? And I said, yes, if I could write and produce it."

Gervais has chosen as his theme - unsurprisingly, perhaps - a rectal examination.

"I'd heard that in many cases you stand a greater chance of beating cancer if you catch it early enough and the thought of someone dying for the sake of three seconds of mild embarrassment is a ripe comedy passage," he continues. "No pun intended."

The advert features Gervais as a doctor and co-stars the comedian and radio presenter Karl Pilkington as his patient.

"Karl had expressed his horror in the past at the thought of a rectal examination," adds Gervais.

* Despite a summer decorated by paparazzi pictures of Charlotte Church and her boyfriend, the Welsh rugby international Gavin Henson, arguing at awards ceremonies and on deckchairs, the singer leaps touchingly to his defence.

"I love him to bits. He's not at all as vain as the press make him out to be," she says in an interview with Now magazine. "That hairdo takes five minutes. He only shaves his legs before a match and it's a professional thing, anyway. I don't mind it actually."

Although the Welsh Rugby Union preferred not to comment on whether Henson's hairless calves were in some way connected to his job, a source close to the team said: "Rubbish: he does it because he likes it. Look at the other players."

* Amid the congratulations thrown at the Chancellor Gordon Brown for his "succession" speech at the Labour conference on Monday, comes the voice of a detractor.

The writer Richard Heller, who was commissioned by Radio 4 to write a play called Waiting for Gordo with the collaboration of the Today programme's audience, watched his work preview in Brighton last night.

"We invited Gordon Brown to come along," he tells me. "He's the only British Chancellor ever to have had an entire play written about him, and he was, let us say, a notable absentee from the first night."

The invitation stands: there will be a seat reserved for the Chancellor for the performance tonight.

* David Walliams and Matt Lucas can now claim to have helped boost the share price of a toy manufacturer. The producers of Little Britain have just announced that, in time for this Christmas, a firm called The Character Group has been licensed by Granada to produce plastic dolls from the show.

"Since news of the toys leaked out, The Character Group's share price has risen from 24p to 60p," an excited spokesman tells me.

Great news for all concerned, as long as parents turn out to be happyto allow their kids to play with dolls of characters such as arch- chav Vicky Pollard and the dissembling wheelchair user, Andy Pipkin.

"Fifty per cent of wheelchair users find Andy offensive," says a spokesman for the charity Whizzkids, which recently commissioned a report into the representation of the disabled on television.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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