City Slickers prepare for court but Morgan stays at home

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The Independent Online

* It's the courtroom battle Fleet Street's been looking forward to these past four years, but Piers Morgan will be an unexpected absentee from the trial of the so-called City Slickers later this month.

The former Mirror editor - who precipitated the original scandal by purchasing Viglen shares - won't be called to give evidence during James Hipwell and Anil Bhoyrul's prosecution on charges of "share ramping".

Sources close to the accused say Morgan, pictured, will be surprisingly left off the list of 51 witnesses for the six-week trial, which begins at Southwark Crown Court on 17 October.

This raises the mouth-watering prospect of Morgan being publicly "trashed" by the co-defendants during the trial, without being given the chance to defend himself in court.

Hipwell and Bhoyrul were were both sacked by the Mirror during original affair, and are understood to be highly upset that Morgan managed to escape relatively unscathed.

"James and Anil didn't call Morgan, as he'd be a hostile witness, and for some reason the Prosecution has left him off its list," I'm told. "This gives them a perfect opportunity to get their own back on Piers."

Whatever comes out of the woodwork, Morgan yesterday told me he'd be unlikely to take it lying down.

"I'm quite disappointed, as I was looking forward to my day in court," he said, before promising to fight his corner just as strongly from outside.

* Ulster's craggy politicians aren't the only ones who are prepared to bury the hatchet in order to keep the peace process ticking over.

Sinead O'Connor - the spiky pop-singer-turned- alternative-priest - has issued an 'umble apology for controversial pro-IRA comments she made to the US media during the 1990s.

Describing her behaviour during that period as "really shit" and "awful," O'Connor claims: "I was very, very young and I didn't know what I was talking about.

'Obviously one has compassion and understanding of the circumstances that drive people to violence," she says. "But, you know, especially for someone like me who had come from a violent home, to talk like that was bollocks."

Although O'Connor's statement has been billed as a welcome boost to the peace process, there are cynics who suspect a whiff of self-interest in its timing.

Her latest album, the appropriately-titled Throw Down Your Arms, was released only yesterday.

* Baby-face David Cameron, 38, is highly sensitive to accusations that he's "too young for the job" of Tory leader.

Asked about his supposed inexperience on Nicky Campbell's radio programme yesterday, the boy wonder from Notting Hill insisted: "I've been an MP for five years."

Not so, say Pandora's chums in Westminster, who may - or may not - be lobbying on behalf of Cameron's leadership rivals.

"In fact, he's been an MP for a total of four years and four months," I'm told. "This sort of duplicitous behaviour gives all MPs a bad name, and makes the likes of Peter Oborne write books on The Rise of Political Lying."

* I think it's safe to say the Aga Khan is no fan of satire, particularly when he's on the receiving end. Last week, the Racing Post attempted to run a humourous profile of the famous racehorse owner describing his role as spiritual leader of 20 million Muslims as being "like treasurer of local cricket club".

The article described a "swanky, jetsetting lifestyle," "immaculately cut suits," "high-domed forehead," and colourful private life: "If you thought running a private jet was expensive, you should try marrying one of the Aga's wives."

Yesterday - after what those in racing circles describe as "fireworks" - the Post printed a somewhat grovelling apology.

"The article was in the letter, tone and spirit misguided, and, in essence, offensive to the Aga Khan, to the Ismaili community which he leads, and to Muslims generally. We should never have allowed it to be published." Ouch!

* Ricky Gervais's decision to make an advert for the Prostate Cancer Charity - reported by this column last week - certainly put the cat among the pigeons.

The commercial's subject matter was initially deemed so risqué that the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre would only allow it to be broadcast after the 9pm watershed.

This caused an almighty row, in which the RACC was accused of endangering public health. And yesterday, they relented. The advert can now be aired around the clock, provided that a "squish" sound effect - to indicate that a doctor portrayed by Gervais has inserted a finger into his patient's rectum - is removed.

Splendidly, the RACC has issued a formal defence of its decision: "We felt that some listeners may regard the sound effect, in this particular context, as a scatological joke."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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