Hunted down: the truth about Cameron's racy pursuits

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The Independent Online

David Cameron's time at Eton, not to mention his royal ancestry, have done little to dent his popular appeal; but can his modernising reputation survive the revelation that he's a fully paid-up member of the Green Welly brigade?

During an investigation into the new Tory leader's rural credentials, Horse and Hound magazine has discovered that Cameron is a mustard-keen horseman who "rode out" several times last season with the Old Berkshire Hunt.

According to its correspondent Marcus Armytage, the former Grand National-winning jockey, he's become a competent rider in recent years, after taking up the sport after university.

"Our Dave, who came to (horses) late, can tack one up, ride it, and jump a fence," he reveals. "He hunted regularly last season with the Old Berks, where his stepfather-in-law Lord Astor is chairman and field master."

Yesterday, Armytage described Cameron - whose Whitney seat borders Old Berks country - as "tidy", if unexceptional, in the saddle. "He hasn't been out with us this season yet, but I watched him last year. Although he'd probably struggle in a point-to-point, he can handle a horse perfectly well."

The revelation that Cameron has "form" for mullering foxes worries members of the Notting Hill set.

"Dave's never made any secret of being pro-hunting," admits an ally. "But from a PR point of view, this might not play well outside the Shires."

* Lindsay Duncan may be an established star of British film, but her many charms are lost on our continental chums.

The comely actress who starred in the BBC drama Rome, has seen her role dramatically cut by censors employed by the Italian state broadcaster, Rai.

They are alarmed by the fruity nature of the Beeb's £60m show, and have axed no less than 12 "excessively violent or sexual" scenes from the first episode alone.

Several feature Duncan, 55, in an advanced state of undress, playing Servilia, Julius Caesar's lover.

Although Italian TV has traditionally adopted a liberal approach to nudity, a spokesman for Rai said viewers would have found the sex scenes historically inaccurate.

"We realised from the start that the makers of Rome had a different concept of Ancient Rome than we do," he says.

"If we had broadcast the version being shown in Britain or America, it would have been incomprehensible to Italians."

* Last week, it was reported that Gloria Sheaves, the last known survivor of the original Bluebell Girls line-up at the Moulin Rouge, had died aged 92.

But we were too quick to declare the end of an era. For the actress Siobhan Hewlett, right, has revealed that her grandmother Catherine Dunne - who is very much alive - was also a member of the can-canning dance troupe.

"My family was a bit upset to read that the last Bluebell Girl had died," Hewlett says. "In fact, Granny was actually the head of a Bluebell troupe. She worked in Paris before the war, and now lives in Whitstable.

"Although she's 93 and suffering from dementia, she still paints her nails like she always used to, and still does her high kicks. She's an amazing woman."

* It's war between Dennis Skinner and the so-called "men in tights" who run the Houses of Parliament.

Last week, the Labour MP was booted out of the Commons for "grossly disorderly behaviour" after suggesting that George Osborne once took cocaine. Now he's had an even pettier brush with authority.

All MPs may reserve a particular seat in Parliament for morning prayers, which they then keep for the rest of the day. Skinner, an atheist, refuses to pray, but still likes to "bagsy" his favourite pew.

Following a complaint from the Tory Chris Grayling, the Serjeant at Arms issued him with a formal reprimand.

"Dennis told him to get stuffed," says a colleague. "It's an excellent spot for heckling, and he's not going to vacate it without a fight."

* Duncan Bannatyne - entrepreneur and star of the BBC series Dragon's Den - was absent from the launch of his new magazine, The Sharp Edge, last week.

This set the rumour mill going a treat. "Duncan was apparently rather ill," says one guest. "A colleague said a facelift has gone disastrously wrong, and he's laid up in bed for several days."

Sadly, this is only half true. "I was ill, but not because of a facelift," Bannatyne tells me. "In fact, I caught a terrible virus from one of my kids. I was vomiting and shaking and shitting all over the place. It was very bad luck, but I absolutely haven't had plastic surgery."

For those who don't believe him, Bannatyne will be returning to our screens - wrinkles and all - in the very near future.

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