Colonel Tim spurns politics for life on the small screen

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The Independent Online

* Stand by for Gulf War: The Movie. Colonel Tim Collins, the soldier famed for his rousing eve-of-battle speech in Iraq, is launching a new career in showbusiness.

* Stand by for Gulf War: The Movie. Colonel Tim Collins, the soldier famed for his rousing eve-of-battle speech in Iraq, is launching a new career in showbusiness.

Less than a year after he quit the Army, Collins - who told troops in the Royal Irish regiment to be "ferocious in battle" but "magnaminous in victory" - has hired the agent Mark Lucas to find him a job in television.

Friends of the cigar-chomping Ulsterman say that he is in "advanced negotiations" to star in a series of history programmes about post-war conflicts. They will draw on both his Army career, and his knowledge of military history.

"We are currently in conversation with terrestrial channels," says Lucas. "Tim's a complete natural on screen, and there are many things he can do. In the forthcoming programmes, he'll be guiding viewers through a number of interesting landscapes that have seen conflicts."

"Tim's obviously had experience in the Gulf and Northern Ireland, as well as the special forces, while his family's involvement in the army can be traced back generations."

The move will be greeted with disappointment in Westminster. Collins had been considering a career in politics, and was courted by both the Ulster Unionist and Conservative parties.

"I certainly wouldn't expect to see him at the hustings in the foreseeable future," Lucas adds.

* The chef Antony Worrall Thompson found himself in the political front line at the pro-smoking group Forest's annual awards on Monday.

Wozza, as patron of the organisation, was asked to speak alongside another celebrity supporter, the musician Joe Jackson. Bizarrely, their speeches were both interrupted by Caroline O'Shea, a former Big Brother contestant who was being followed by a film crew.

"This minor celebrity started shouting anti-smoking mumbo-jumbo during the speeches," says one guest. "She had clearly been drinking, and had to be asked to leave the room and shut up. Later, she started trying to seduce one of the elderly guests. He wasn't complaining, but it was all a bit embarrassing for everyone else."

Conspiracy theorists reckon O'Shea was sent to disrupt the event by the anti-smoking lobby. But Jackson wasn't bothered "I eat hecklers for breakfast," he says.

* A couple of weeks back, Patrick Stewart - rather surprisingly - told me he'd never bothered to watch Dawson's Creek , the TV show in which his West End co-star Joshua Jackson achieved fame. But Jackson isn't one to take offence.

"I wasn't really surprised that Patrick hadn't seen Dawson's Creek ," he tells me. "There was no reason why he should. Of course, I knew about him: I was a fan, though not really of Star Trek but of X-men .

"I know young actors say this all the time, but I've learned a lot from Patrick. The past weeks have been the best professional experience of my life."

* Robert Kilroy-Silk might be long gone, but the UK Independence Party still has the odd undesirable in its ranks. Their prospective candidate in Manchester Central is a former Labour councillor called Damien O'Connor.

Pressingly - given his new party's tough line on standards in public life - Mr O'Connor is a convicted criminal. Back in 2000, he narrowly escaped a prison sentence after being found guilty of a £9,000 housing benefit fraud.

That doesn't seem to worry the UKIP, though. "Mr O'Connor has been perfectly frank about his criminal record," the party said yesterday. "He's almost completed paid off the money relating to the offence, so we are happy to support his candidacy."

* The Master of the Rolls, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, has struck up an intriguing friendship with Cleo Rocos, the actress who played Miss Whiplash on The Kenny Everett Show.

The couple met at a recent dinner hosted by the Lord and Lady Mayoress at Mansion House. "They got on like a house on fire," I'm told. "Cleo has a magnificent cleavage, and Phillips spent most of the evening talking to it."

Rocos yesterday stressed that her new chum - one of the three most senior judges in England - was accompanied by his wife.

"There was no buttock-squenching," she tells me. "We had a slightly eccentric conversation, and he's a really adventurous, witty man. He's now invited me to dine at the Garrick Club."