Comedian blows the lid on the UK arms industry

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The Independent Online

When crusading comedian Mark Thomas starts talking arms deals, lawyers begin sharpening their pencils.

Last year, Pandora reported that Newsnight had "canned" a report by Thomas on Britain's most colourful Asian businessmen, the Hinduja brothers.

In it, he conducted a "sting" operation to catch the Hindujas allegedly breaking an embargo to sell military trucks to Sudan. The piece was pulled after the BBC received submissions from the Hinduja's legal team. They claimed entrapment, and said the vehicles were not armour plated, and therefore not of military specification.

Now, Thomas looks set to cause an even greater storm when his new book, As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade is released in July.

The book is expected to blow the lid on the UK arms industry, with publishers Ebury admitting it "crosses legal swords with some of the richest men in Britain."

While it's not yet known who will be most embarrassed by the book, Ebury's legal team are said to be still leafing through it with a fine-tooth comb.

In this week's Bookseller magazine, Thomas claims he's not deliberately looking for trouble, but wants to see laws changed.

"For me, if the Tories had nought out of 10 for controlling arms, Labour have two and a half," he says. "There are things we can change fairly easily ... simple things like changing the way you define torture equipment."

Hawkes and Hawks take on pop world

News from last week's Hay-on-Wye festival which will give a glimmer of hope to anyone out there who was worried we'd seen the last of Chesney Hawkes's all too brief pop career.

Hawkes - who charmed teenage audiences in the early Nineties with his only hit "The One and Only" - has apparently forged an unlikely singing partnership with British comedian, Tony Hawks.

Speaking at Hay, Hawks claimed they're preparing to record an album together after the pair bonded over sharing the same surname.

"I got a call after I did my last single. Chesney said, we've both got the same surname, let's write a song together," said Hawks.

"So he's coming to stay with me in the Pyrenees and we're putting an album together. He's a lovely bloke, although he looks about 12."

No animal causes for Kemp

It's no secret that pop stars and charitable causes go together like salt and pepper.

But unlike Sir Paul McCartney, you won't find Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp rolling around on the ice to save seal pups.

"There is just so much emphasis on animal welfare with charity these days, I suppose," he told me at a private view of Amnesty International's Protect the Human campaign at the Hospital last week. "It just doesn't appeal to me, really, unlike Amnesty.

"When you hear of someone thrown in jail in some foreign country, you just presume he is guilty, but Amnesty are the ones who are always questioning it.

"That to me is a whole lot more important than fluffy animals."

Going east

Verdicts on the cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry tend to divide fans of modern art in this country, but over in Japan they can't get enough of him.

Turner Prize-winner Perry tells me he is planning a "massive" exhibition in the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, in Kanazawa.

"I love it over there," he said at last week's party for Victor & Rolf hosted by Harpers Bazaar.

"In the museum there is this huge transparent room that looks out on toa courtyard, and I am planning my largest work yet to go on display there.

"I have already made the pot, which is about six-foot high, and, at the moment, I'm in the process of decorating it."

'Bull' ruffles feathers at Condé Nast

There have been mutterings of disapproval over at Condé Nast over Tim Parfitt's soon-to-be-published book A Load of Bull. The book, which chronicles Parfitt's time as MD of Condé Nast Spain, is said to have ruffled feathers among the publishing giant's bigwigs, in particular, its head honcho, Jonathan Newhouse.

"It's all gone suddenly and mysteriously quiet on the e-mail-correspondence front with Jonathan," admits Parfitt. "He's normally quite chatty and replies immediately. I do hope he is not too worried about some of the book's revelations."

If so, Parfitt wouldn't be the first to attract the ire of his former employers. The company was thought to be similarly peeved when Toby Young published his account of his time at Vanity Fair, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.

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