Fergie's red card fails to see off minister Gerry

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson's "hairdryer" outbursts are the stuff of footballing legend. Some of the world's great players have cowered and covered their faces from the biblical heat of a dressing-down by the red-nosed Manchester United manager.

Gordon Brown's sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe is either brave or stupid. He took only four months in the job to upset Sir Alex, when he last week attacked Man Utd's latest hike in ticket prices, and the "obscene" salaries paid to top-level footballers.

Ferguson immediately switched into attack mode, loudly berating Sutcliffe.

Sir Alex went even further upon being told that Sutcliffe is a Red Devils fan, promptly blackballing the minister from future Manchester United matches: "He is a United fan is he? He will not be coming back again. He can go and watch that [lower league Manchester] mob FC United."

Unlike Ferguson's sports car-driving players, though, Sutcliffe tells Pandora that he will not take this sort of rot lying down, and intends to ignore Ferguson.

"I go to five or six games a season and will be back there at United soon," says the Bradford South MP.

"I know David Gill [Man Utd's chief executive]. I will carry on going until I get a letter from him saying I am banned."

He adds: "I take it with a pinch of salt."

Sir Alex is not accustomed to his words being taken lightly. This should all make for an interesting exchange over the plate of prawn sandwiches.

Kim's plea to nephew wanting to fight in Iraq

This Sunday, Remembrance Day, ITV screens its adaptation of David Haig's play My Boy Jack. The story of Rudyard Kipling's grief for his son who died in the First World War, the film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Jack, and Kim Cattrall as his mother. Haig is Kipling.

Cattrall was personally motivated by the desire to stop her 18-year-old nephew serving in Iraq.

"His grandfathers and great grandfathers served and there is no way I want him to sign up," she says. "My grandfather was wounded at Passchendaele. When the Second World War was declared he signed up, dying of pneumonia after six months. My father grew up without a dad.

"My young nephew's desire to become part of what he perceives as the greatest battle being fought in his lifetime is stronger than all the arguments made. It is his decision. This doesn't stop me sending him articles to try to stop him. It affects families for generations."

Picture this, Heather

During Heather Mills's volcanic outburst against her critics on GMTV, she found time to name Jonathan Ross as a sort of 21st century equivalent to the Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins.

Mills quoted Wossy's recent insult at the Q Awards, when he joked: "Heather Mills McCartney – what an effing liar. I wouldn't be surprised if she's actually got two legs." Typically sensitive.

Mills may have a new press cutting to add to her now-infamous scrapbook of media shame (which she carries around). The cover of December's Q shows her estranged husband Sir Paul, posing fists aloft, with the, er, same Jonathan Ross, at the very party. Fancy!

A reliable source says that the two men get on "famously". Wonder why?

No flies on us

Pandora's snout – finely calibrated to sniff out a scandal while ignoring the stench in the gutter – detects the continuing pong of controversy in Kiev.

Last week I reported that an exhibition of Damien Hirst work owned by the billionaire Ukrainian Viktor Pinchuk was stinking out a local art gallery. "Deeply unpleasant," said visitors, who speculated that one of Hirst's cows' heads in formaldehyde is leaking. The gallery denied that, claiming the smell was actually Hirst's "paintings" made from flies glued to canvas.

But a gallery-goer emails: "I went up to the flies and took a deep sniff. The smell was minimal, only detectable with your nose right up to the canvas."

Time for an MOT?

Country piles

The childless Somerset aristocrat Sir Benjamin Slade, who owns the fancy mansion Maunsel House, was delighted to stumble across an American rock star relative – Isaac Slade, frontman of the band The Fray – to whom he hopes to bequeath the mansion. I hear of a hiccup in proceedings, however.

Isaac, 26, arranged VIP tickets for Sir Ben, 61, and staff to attend his Bristol gig on Saturday. A wild time was had by all, and the rock band returned to Somerset with the baronet for an afterparty. One thing led to another, and, before you know it, Sir Ben's gun dog, Britwold the Saxon, was bounding around the house and gardens with Isaac's underpants between his teeth.

"He took Isaac's pants and didn't want to give them back," says Sir Ben. "It was tug of war. They are very expensive pants made in Norway. We washed them for him but they are quite chewed up. I suppose the holes will let the air in."

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