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Irons to lead the field in battle against hunting ban

* Several public figures have threatened to go to jail in defiance of the Government's forthcoming ban on hunting, but no Hollywood stars have yet put their neck on the line in defence of the sport.

* Several public figures have threatened to go to jail in defiance of the Government's forthcoming ban on hunting, but no Hollywood stars have yet put their neck on the line in defence of the sport.

That could be about to change, though. For Jeremy Irons is set to play a leading role in the Countryside Alliance's campaign of disobedience, which kicks off in the New Year.

Irons - joint-Master of the West Carbery hunt in County Cork - has quietly supported the CA for several years, but work has until now prevented him being a regular mouth-piece for the organisation.

Recent events, however, have persuaded the Oscar-winning actor to do "absolutely everything I can" for the cause.

"I believe this is one of the two most devastating parliamentary votes in the last century," Irons told Pandora at Monday's premiere of his new film, The Merchant of Venice. "It's an outrageous assault on civil liberties. We're not harming anyone. The whole situation is terribly depressing.

"It's difficult to know what can be done now the Bill has been passed. We'll have to see how the two court cases go - that's one ray of hope. And I'll do absolutely everything I can to help."

Pandora gathers that the CA is planning several illegal mass meets on February 19, the first Saturday after hunting is banned. Perhaps a bit of Hollywood glamour will now be added to proceedings.

* IN THE week the Band Aid single was released, Bill Wyman, who wasn't invited to contribute to the project, is recording a tribute of his own.

On Thursday, the former Rolling Stone will be filmed at the Abbey Road Studios, alongside Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney, with whom Wyman is not thought to have collaborated in the past.

In two days, they aim to compile - from scratch - a musical tribute to Scotty Moore, who was Elvis Presley's guitarist.

"There's going to be me, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and a load of other guitarists all jamming together," explains Wyman. "It's being filmed for television, and also a DVD, the works.

"I'm basically looking forward to sitting down to play with the other guys, and seeing what we come up with. Scotty himself is flying over to take part too."

* THERE ARE limits to Christian Slater's talents. Having agreed - as this column first revealed - to take to the West End stage, the Hollywood renaissance man recently tried his hand at stand-up comedy.

The cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are putting on a series of late-night comedy shows at the Gielgud Theatre, where their play is being staged.

Slater is compère. So, what does co-star Mackenzie Crook - an accomplished stand-up - make of his performances so far?

"Christian struggles, to be honest" Crook tells me. "He's got a great stage presence and a likeable persona but he finds all the jokes a bit difficult. I don't blame him - it isn't easy, but I wouldn't say he's a natural."

* THE DECISION by Tony Banks to vacate his West Ham seat at the General Election is already causing squabbling over the future of the Labour stronghold.

Banks (or Lord Banks, as he may soon be known) announced his departure last week, leaving one Jo Coles - an assistant to Yvette Cooper, who unsuccessfully applied for Halifax - to be parachuted into the seat.

In order to facilitate this, Labour's General Secretary Matt Carter has written to West Ham Labour Party, ordering them to adopt an all-women shortlist. But locals - citing their high ethnic population - would prefer a male. "We're not going to back down," says one. "This could get pretty messy."

* The departure of former lap dancer - and current Mrs Vic Reeves - Nancy Sorrell has encouraged Janet to bid for the role of camp "totty."

My colleague spent yesterday creating "body jewellery" with toothpaste, and flashing her bra at remaining (male) contestants. It's a fitting tribute to Sorrell, who will launch her own range of Ann Summers lingerie, Nancy's Naughty Knickers, when she returns to Blighty.

The mood has not all been sweetness and light, though. During one contretemps, JS-P told her companions "you're all thick". In another, she fell out with Paul Burrell, after his wife branded her the "jungle viper" in a letter.

"Mrs Burrell's going to get a whack with my handbag," promises Janet.

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