Hughes gets involved in another gay party affair

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* For the second time in recent months, Simon Hughes has become involved in what down-market newspapers might gleefully describe as a "gay scandal".

The Liberal Democrat MP whose leadership campaign was derailed after he lied about his sexuality in an interview with The Independent, is at the centre of an eerily similar row in his Southwark seat.

A local councillor, Dr Abdur-Rahman Olayiwola, has just resigned from the Lib Dem benches, claiming there are too many closet homosexuals in the Southwark party's executive.

In a statement, Dr Olayiwola, a devout Muslim, claims this is leading to petty sectarianism. "I have got nothing against people who are white, gay, and lesbian. But Southwark belongs to everybody, not just them," he says.

"For more than two years, the Southwark executive included no member of the black and ethnic minority community, but more than half of the executive were gay, lesbian, or homosexual. This is disproportionate, unfair and unrepresentative of the good multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-faith Southwark people."

Dr Olayiwola's resignation, announced earlier this week, is already leading to delightfully petty rows. Hughes describes it as sour grapes, saying the councillor is put out at not being reselected.

"Doctor Olayiwola applied to be reselected, but he did not get approved and his appeal was turned down," he says. "

It's not unusual for people, when they don't get reselected, to resign, get angry about it and go independent."

* Kevin Spacey crawled out of the woodwork yesterday to tell critics of his reign at the Old Vic: "Je ne regrette rien."

Maybe he doesn't. But his recent problems may run deeper than we previously thought. A set of accounts for the Old Vic Theatre Company, of which Spacey is a director, lands on my desk.

Signed off in November, they reveal that the firm was £477,000 in debt at the end of its last reported financial year.

In their report, the directors blame this on one-off "set-up costs" for the new company: "This means that 12 months of costs have been set against only 11 weeks of box office income."

Maybe so, but Spacey was originally supposed to recoup some of those losses this summer.

That's now a forlorn hope: Resurrection Blues closes tomorrow, a week early, following poor reviews and an extraordinary row - first revealed by this column - between cast members.

The Old Vic will be left in the dark until September.

* Charles Saatchi is about to become the latest victim of a critical mauling from the people of Liverpool.

By way of a warm-up for 2008, when they take on the mantle of "European City of Culture", Merseyside's finest academics are meeting to slag off the secretive collector.

Liverpool John Moores University has announced plans for a two-day symposium on "the triumph of Stuckism".

Dozens of art historians will use the event to study the Stuckists, a media-savvy group of artists who were formed to campaign against Saatchi and conceptual art.

"It's happening this September, and will consist of lectures and Q&A sessions," says an organiser.

"The Stuckists have gained some academic credibility after being dismissed as a media freak-show.

Saatchi is welcome to attend. "We aren't exactly holding our breath, though. Perhaps Nigella [left], who acts as his representative on earth, might act as substitute."

* Sad to report that London's chattering classes are losing one of their poshest literary salons.

Designer Olga Polizzi and her husband William Shawcross are moving out of their Belgravia home. It'll bring about one of the smartest jumble sales since Sir Elton John last updated his wardrobe.

"I'm finally leaving my house on Hyde Park Corner," said Polizzi at a party organised by House & Garden. "I've lived there for 32 years. I'm going to sell everything in it and start from scratch.

"There are some designer clothes and nice furniture, so I'll sell that. The rest, I'm giving to charity. The new place is in Mayfair, and will be totally minimalist."

* For Sienna Miller, celebrity fashion endorsements can generate twice as much cash as occasional acting jobs.

Unfortunately, they also bring pitfalls. This week, glossy magazines carried photos of Miller shopping in a pair of jeans from a designer called LoFli.

So far so uncontroversial. But my man in the rag trade points out that la Miller signed an exclusive deal in November to be the "face and body" of Pepe jeans.

"Not only did Sienna do a racy photo-shoot on a beach in Malibu, she also agreed in writing not to wear rival products," I'm told. "Not surprisingly, Pepe now want her to explain what's going on."

Yesterday, the jeans firm's spokesman insisted: "Sienna is contracted only to wear Pepe jeans, so we're sure it must be an old photograph."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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