Diana judge knows a thing or two about car crashes

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The Independent Online

Purple ink-splashing conspiracy theorists may at last get their moment in the sun (or more likely the Express) in the New Year, when retired senior judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss holds preliminary hearings into Princess Diana's death, almost 10 years after her car crashed in a Paris tunnel.

Butler-Sloss, 73, the first woman to enter the judicial elite, will seek to correct some of the more colourful explanations for the crash, which also killed Dodi Fayed and the couple's chauffeur Henri Paul. (A compilation of the wildest allegations sees the Duke of Edinburgh firing a Mossad-acquired grenade at the car while riding pillion on the Queen Mother's Harley Davidson, with the Pope lying before the wheels of an onrushing ambulance.)

In the articles announcing her appointment, one detail went unmentioned. In 1998 Butler-Sloss admitted causing a serious road accident herself, when she pulled out of a junction and crashed into another car on the A30 at Stockbridge, Hants.

A 25-year-old nanny (not wearing a seatbelt) suffered severe facial injuries, glass lodged behind one eye. Hampshire Police prepared a file to charge Butler-Sloss with careless driving, but its assistant chief constable chose not to prosecute.

She accepted the force's offer that she pay for a two-day driving course and avoided court.

"There but for the grace of God," perhaps. Hopefully Butler-Sloss's experience will help her to understand the nuances of car crashes and dispel the untruths.

Hey, Jude, come back to the Young Vic

Jude Law says he will at last return to the London stage.

For two years he has told Pandora he's negotiating to play Hamlet at the Young Vic - sure, if it came off, to create more of a buzz than even his portrayal of the naked, elfin Michael in Les Parents Terribles in 1994.

Law is friends with the intimate theatre's artistic director, David Lan. They worked together on the Jacobean bloodbath 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (1999) and on Dr Faustus (2002). Law helped to raise £12.5m to rebuild the Young Vic, which opens next month.

"I want to get back onstage and we're sorting out the details," the actor told me Thursday, wandering between Robert Mapplethorpe photographs at the Alison Jacques Gallery.

"I looked around the new building today. It's stunning. Anyone would jump to play there."

Says Lan: "We're talking parts. It will happen."

Mersey blues

Tom Watson MP, the principal dagger-wielder in what Boris Johnson undiplomatically termed "the Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing" to have engulfed the Labour Party, was accused by Tony Blair of being "disloyal, discourteous and wrong".

Watson insists: "No one has worked harder than me for that man.

"When I was helping us win the Wirral South by-election in 1996, I spent three and a half months in a B&B in Birkenhead in the middle of winter. You don't get much more loyal and dedicated than that."

Life at the coal face!

Fink you're 'ard enough, Sven?

Actor and born-again football fan Ray Winstone turned the rarefied air of the Dorchester Grill blue on Thursday night.

Winstone tore up his West Ham season ticket when the club were relegated in 2003, but has since returned to the fold. He seems unenthusiastic about suggestions that Swedish rake and former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson might become manager of the Hammers.

"There's no fucking way Eriksson is coming to us, we'd murder 'im," Winstone tells me. "He's useless. I'd actually shoot 'im myself."

The Football Association is reported to be paying Sven £13,000 a day to sit around in his pants watching Trisha and Diagnosis Murder.

Intriguing as some may find the idea of a contract killing (cost efficient, if nothing else), it is probably better that Winstone and the FA's suits don't sit down together to explore this further.

Take an Indian odyssey with Roy

In 1985, Roy Hattersley, then deputy leader of the Labour Party, got into a verbal tangle after referring to his constituents in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, as "my Asians".

"I am theirs, and they are mine," he soulfully explained afterwards.

Browsing through the website of Pandora's new travel agency friends, Cox & Kings (they of The Guardian's reader offer to visit top torture destination Uzbekistan), who should I see leading a two-week exploration of the Indian subcontinent? None other than Roy!

"Across the Ganges Plain with Lord Hattersley" departs 11 November. £2,795 (plus £55 visa fee) buys "a fascinating odyssey through Indian history", narrated by tour guide Hatters, who will "link memories of the British East India Company and the Raj with sacred sites, ancient temples and stunning monuments".

Imodium at the ready!

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