Jackson gaffe puts Labour's tribal elders on the warpath

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* Ten days after he crossed the floor of the Commons, the former Tory MP Robert Jackson is involved in his first dispute with the Old Labour dinosaurs in his new party.

* Ten days after he crossed the floor of the Commons, the former Tory MP Robert Jackson is involved in his first dispute with the Old Labour dinosaurs in his new party.

Left-wing firebrand Dennis Skinner is furious that Jackson - who lacks proper working-class credentials - has described him as a keen supporter of the defection.

The row follows a recent Sunday Times article, in which Jackson recalled his first ever meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

"I noticed no averted eyes nor scowls," he wrote. "And when I saw Dennis Skinner, the Beast of Bolsover, giving me the thumbs up I knew that everything would be alright."

Skinner disputes this version of events. Rather than the thumbs up, he claims to have been delivering a left-wing version of the V-sign.

"When Jackson showed up, it was like Trotskyite entryists in Communist Russia," he tells friends. "I said loudly that we ought to sing the Red Flag, and waved my fist in a Communist salute. I certainly didn't give him the thumbs up."

Informed of Skinner's views yesterday, Jackson first said the article had been heavily edited, and then pleaded ignorance.

"I didn't think he was being hostile; I saw it as a welcoming gesture," he said. "I suppose this shows I still have a long way to go in learning the body language of the tribe to which I now belong."

* THE LATEST big fish from the celebrity pond to lose patience with the popular press is the leggy TV presenter Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

A former cocaine addict, TP-T has instructed her lawyers to take action against newspaper reports suggesting she has fallen off the wagon.

"I'm taking legal action against one newspaper," she says. "I can't talk much about it. People can't accept that I don't have the same mindset I had three years ago."

"If my laugh is louder than anyone else's, which it often is, or I spend over two minutes in the bathroom, people think I've relapsed. The point is, a relapse sells papers; staying clean doesn't."

TP-T's target is believed to be The Sun , which ran an unflattering article about her before Christmas.

"We've got some letters of complaint on file, but no proceedings have yet been launched," said the newspaper's spokesman yesterday.

* ZADIE SMITH has kissed and made up with James Wood, the acerbic literary critic who - despite being an old chum - gave her last novel, The Autograph Man , an absolute stinker of a review. The two were on no-speakers for some time, but have now given a joint interview to Time Out , announcing that peace has broken out.

"I didn't finish reading [Wood's review] because I was very upset," says Smith, above. "I took it to heart. But with good reviews I always have contempt for the person who wrote it. I always think: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't believe you. Unless it's a writer who I admire hugely, I think: why would it make any difference that you think it's good?"

How lofty!

* LABOUR MPS are (perhaps prematurely) speculating about Tony Blair's post-election Cabinet reshuffle.

One theory doing the rounds is that Patricia Hewitt will be promoted to Secretary of State for Defence. "She'd be the first woman in the job," says one MP. "It'll upset a lot of serving troops, but they'll be glad to get rid of the current Defence Secretary, whose military nickname is Buff Hoon."

Elsewhere, David Lammy is a favourite for the chop, whilst the elegant "Blair babes" Janet Anderson and Oona King are thought to be on the rise.

"Jack Straw's putting in words for both Janet and Oona," I'm told. "He's a great admirer of their talents, and has devoted boundless energy to their affairs."

* This week, Jerry Springer joined the religious nuts kicking up a stink about Jerry Springer: The Opera.

"I wouldn't have written it," he announced, at a fundraising dinner in London. "I don't believe in making fun of other people's religions, or in saying things that could be insensitive to other people's religions."

Interestingly, Springer was playing a different tune when he first saw the show at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival. "I only wish I'd written it," he said, back then. "I don't object to anything in it. The whole show is tongue in cheek, so what's the problem?"

Strange how a media witchhunt changed his mind.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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