Ken defends Mao, and puts his foot in it ... again

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The Independent Online

It's been a few months since Ken Livingstone dropped a decent clanger, so thank goodness London's Mayor retains a deeply-held affection for the People's Republic of China.

Back in January, Ken used a visit to Beijing to defend the Communist regime's human rights record, comparing the Tiananmen Square massacre to poll tax riots in Trafalgar Square.

Yesterday, history repeated itself. During his weekly Mayoral Question Time at City Hall, Livingstone, right, decided to stick up for one of the last century's foremost dictators, Chairman Mao.

Asked about his attitude to regimes alleged to abuse human rights (the Tory questioner cited China and Venezuela) Ken claimed Mao's cultural revolution was "justified", because it improved chiropody.

"One thing that Chairman Mao did was to end the appalling foot binding of women," he announced. "That alone justifies the Mao Tse-tung era."

The comment met with disbelief from members of the London Assembly. They note that Jung Chang's recent book on Mao blames him for the deaths of seventy million people.

"At first, we thought it was just a flippant joke," says one. "But it soon became clear that Ken was being serious."

Last night, London Assembly Tories went on the offensive over the incident: "The fact that these outbursts are becoming more frequent and more outlandish should be of grave concern to all Londoners."

* I do hope that renewed efforts to resurrect the iconic Carry On series of films don't end in tears.

In Cannes on Tuesday, Victoria Silvstedt, left, was unveiled as the star of Carry on London, which is dues begin shooting this summer, once finance has been sorted out.

Readers may recall that a separate attempt to make COL collapsed chaotically in 2003, after producers ran out of money.

This version will be made by a different firm, Intandem Films. Its most recent accounts, filed in December, reveal losses of almost £500,000 in the previous financial year, leaving £472,000 in the bank.

However, a Carry On spokesman remains bullish. "The company's only been running a short while, and is still in a growth period," I'm told. "It's announcing another 12 projects in Cannes, so we're confident of getting financed."

* Kate Moss made headlines yesterday, when the BHS squillionaire Philip Green paid £60,000 at a charity auction to watch her "snog" Jemima Khan.

Away from the news pages, pictures of the occasion are causing controversy at Annabel's, the Mayfair boîte where it all took place.

Moss, you see, was wearing jeans for her bout of tonsil tennis, a clear breach of the strict Annabel's dress code.

"There's no way an ordinary member would get in wearing jeans," reckons a regular. "Looks like it's one rule for us, another for coke-head celebrities."

Not so, insists the club's spokesman, David Wynne-Morgan. "It was a private do, so the organisers made their own rules," he says. "Kate Moss [right] wouldn't be allowed in like that on an ordinary night."

* Another day, another set of thick heads for John Reid to bash together at the Home Office.

Yesterday, Reid's office announced a new "Tackling Drugs Changing Lives" awards bash: "The awards will be presented by Home Office Drugs minister, Vernon Coleman, and broadcaster Dermot Murnaghan," read its invite.

Unfortunately, our new Drugs minister is called Vernon Coaker. He's the one who has just owned up to smoking pot at university; Vernon Coleman is the well-known medical writer, sex guru, and former Sunday People columnist.

"Typical Home Office cock-up," reckons one guest. "They can't deport foreign criminals, can't find illegal immigrants, and now don't even know the name of their own dope-smoking Drugs minister."

Arses and elbows, anyone?

* For a good-looking man, Kevin Spacey is sweetly shy about the success (or otherwise) of his personal fitness regime.

Last week, the Hollywood star dined at Britain's smartest wine merchants, Berry Brothers & Rudd. "After dinner, in a tradition dating back to 1765, our chairman, Simon Berry, invited Kevin Spacey to climb on board our giant antique scales," reads a press release.

"His weight is now recorded alongside Laurence Olivier's, Lord Byron's and Vivien Leigh's, in a dusty annual on display in the St James's shop."

Unfortunately efforts to garner Spacey's vital statistics have proved unsuccessful. "We're not allowed to tell you how much Kevin weighed," says the store. "He doesn't want us to go into it. He's quite a private person."