Hunted down: the minister who faces a frightening time

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* It will be the oddest courtroom scene in recent times. Alun Michael, the former Rural Affairs minister who banned hunting, is to be a defence witness for the "Westminster Eight", the pro-hunting activists who invaded the House of Commons in protest against him.

* It will be the oddest courtroom scene in recent times. Alun Michael, the former Rural Affairs minister who banned hunting, is to be a defence witness for the "Westminster Eight", the pro-hunting activists who invaded the House of Commons in protest against him.

On Monday, Otis Ferry and his accomplices will appear at Bow Street magistrates charged with "causing fear and distress". Having pleaded not guilty, they will issue Michael, far right, with a summons to testify on their behalf.

It sounds like an odd move, since Michael is a dyed-in-the-wool opponent of Ferry and his chums, but sources close to the Westminster Eight tell me it's all part of a cunning legal plan.

"The defence lawyer intends to ask Michael a single rather clever question," I'm told. "It is this: 'did you, at any stage during the invasion of 15 September 2004, feel frightened?'

"If Michael says yes, he'll be a laughing stock, and look like a total wimp; if he says no, then they can't very well be convicted of causing fear and distress."

Yesterday, David Redvers, one of Ferry's co-accused, confirmed that they intend to summon the (now DTI) minister, but declined from commenting further for legal reasons. Alun Michael declined to comment.

* Paris Hilton swept into London on Monday, throwing a predictably restrained party to launch her own brand of perfume.

Sadly, like many a prominent American visitor, the hotel heiress managed to upset the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, after publicly admitting (oh, the horror!) to feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

In her speech to guests at the bash, Hilton announced: "I'd live here (in London) if it had LA weather. I just love feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square; I could do that forever. I even prefer it to going shopping."

As any fool knows, feeding the city's most famous pigeons is now verboten. According to Red Ken's spokesman that sort of hi-jinks is liable to land Hilton with a £50 fine.

"There's a bylaw that makes it illegal for any person to either feed any bird or to distribute any feeding stuffs for birds unless approved by the Mayor of London," I'm told.

* If you thought Denis MacShane had gone quietly - having been sacked as Minister for Europe - then think again.

In his valedictory article for The Observer, MacShane recalled the 1970's when Labour "affected a patriotic British disdain" towards Europe: "Remember those speeches by Peter Shore, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle and their little helpers and researchers, who kept Labour out of power for decades?"

This rhetorical question, as students of Westminster will point out, amounted to a two-fingered salute to MacShane's former boss Jack Straw, who was Barbara Castle's most famous "little helper". I wonder if Straw will rise to it.

* It's been a good three days since a celebrity chef hit the headlines in controversial fashion. So thank goodness for Alastair Little who's just accused Waitrose of industrial espionage.

Speaking at the Groucho Club's 20th birthday dinner, Little told me the supermarket has pinched ideas from his Notting Hill delicatessen, Tavola.

"I've been the target of spying, and I'm not happy about it," he said. "I have lots of ideas, they have none, and if they want mine they should pay me." It's easy enough to spot them: seven men in ill-fitting suits browsing for ages aren't usually customers. A bunch from Waitrose said they were 'researching Calabrian food,' so I said 'why the hell are you doing it in Notting Hill?' and kicked them out."

Over to Waitrose: "Our buyers have a passion for food and are continually keeping abreast of trends," I'm told.

* The singer Lulu - whose former husbands include Bee Gee Maurice Gibb and hairdresser John Frieda - is thought to be something of a man-eater. Worrying, then, to see a new target in her sights: the bashful Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry.

"I really fancy Stephen. I think he's seriously gorgeous, and used tonight as an opportunity to kiss him on the lips for the first time," she admitted, at the show's opening. "I don't care that he's married, and was gay beforehand; I've overcome greater obstacles than that before in my lifetime."

Before she tries, Lulu will be spending time with one of Daldry's musical collaborators. "I'm the opening act for Elton John at a couple of shows he's performing this summer," she adds. "I've never been on the road before, but Elton said 'once you've tried it, you'll never go back'."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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