Gummer's unholy row with the humanists

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The Independent Online

An un-Christian dust-up is under way between John Gummer, the Catholic Tory MP, environmentalist and cow eater, and the British Humanist Association. Each accuses the other of dishonesty.

The humanists claim that Gummer attacked them a fortnight ago at their stall in Blackpool. "He walked up to us and said loudly how much he hated us," says the BHA chief exec, Hanne Stinson.

"He was shouting that we, because of our beliefs about living a good life without religion, had no right to be there; that the Conservative Party is a Christian party. He was spitting angry. It was peculiar behaviour."

The humanists are demanding that Gummer apologise and have asked Conservative central office if non-Christians are unwelcome at party events. The Tories point out that they "welcome people of all faiths".

And Gummer accuses the humanists of fabricating the episode: "This is entirely factitious." He was "merely having a polite conversation with someone, suggesting the Conservative Party had Christian roots, and they blew it out of proportion".

He adds: "They're behaving like some sort of extreme group, which perhaps they are. I don't hate anyone, not even them. In fact I feel sorry for them."

Stinson implies that smoke billows from Gummer's backside: "There were enough people who heard him make these remarks."

It's not the rudest thing that has been said about Gummer. A Norwegian environment minister once called him a drittsekk (sack full of excrement).

Arctic Alex joins the tofu and lentils brigade

The cracks are finally appearing in Alex Turner's carefully calibrated (non-) image as the everyday, down-at-heel Sheffield scally.

Last week, the Arctic Monkeys singer was spotted in the corner of a Covent Garden fleshpot, familiarising himself with the beguiling T4 presenter Alexa Chung after breaking up with his long-term girlfriend earlier this year.

On Sunday lunchtime, a Pandora mole was surprised to bump into the pair shopping together in The Grocery, a fashionable and swanky (horror of horrors) organic supermarket in Shoreditch, east London. They looked a bit dishevelled, pale as paper, and, dare I suggest, hungover.

I'm uncertain about the quantities of Black Forest rye, Thorncroft autumn rosehip cordial and unrefined Styrian toasted pumpkin seed oil consumed in Sheffield, but perhaps they will soon be added to the band's rider.

No role for Ronnie

What happened to the cameo appearance of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood in CSI, the Las Vegas forensic science soap? Apparently the guitarist was warned not to do it by The Who's Roger Daltrey.

"They wanted me to be Uncle Ron the safe cracker," Wood said yesterday on Virgin Radio. "But I saw Roger do a guest appearance. He said it was all too much. No time to rehearse and he had to play five parts. I said no, I don't really want to go in like that."

Ronnie has a voice like Kermit the Frog on 50 a day, so a US accent could have been tricky. He will reconsider if producers move filming to London.

Old friends

Muscadet-fuelled gossip via a crackly phone call from the International Bar Association knees-up in Singapore: Tony Blair's attorney general Lord Goldsmith, PC, QC, was approached at a reception by a solicitor wishing him good luck with his exams. (Goldsmith must sit the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test to move from the Bar to solicitordom.) "You'll sail through," said the solicitor, "except you might struggle with the ethics paper." Which drained the colour from Goldsmith's cheeks.

Family and friends gathered in Brighton yesterday to pay tribute to Wyngate Harness, assistant editor of The Independent. Wyn died two weeks ago, aged 47, but his warmth, dry wit and journalistic standards live on.

He was a modest man. As one friend pointed out during the service, "If he had edited this, it would be much shorter because he would have taken out all the nice bits about himself."

See you at the bar, Wyn. Pint of Best please.

Scrum down at No 10

Since Gordon Brown accepted an invite from the Rugby Football Union to attend Saturday's World Cup final between England and South Africa in Paris, a bunfight has broken out in Special Branch between members of his protection detail.

The Prime Minister's detectives are scrummaging to accompany him to the French capital. Rarely, I am told, has a prime ministerial job – particularly over a weekend – had so many volunteers. There is also no danger now that the EU treaty/constitution summit in Lisbon will overrun from Friday. Brown, who played rugby at school and lost his sight in one eye as a result, is determined to secure a quick deal and a prompt getaway.

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