Ken forced to eat humble pie after straying abroad

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The Independent Online

* Like the hero of a Shakespearean tragedy, Ken Livingstone's sorrows come not single spies, but in battalions.

Yesterday, as he faced the Standards Board for England over his so-called "Nazi jibe", the Mayor of London owned up to another serious professional misdemeanour.

On Monday, Red Ken used his taxpayer-funded internet site to carry a lengthy article criticising the US government's efforts to oust Hugo Chavez as the president of Venezuela.

The Mayor's reflection on this global left-wing cause célèbre was proudly trumpeted on the front page of the Greater London Authority's website.

Unfortunately, this is a breach of local government guidelines, which forbid Livingstone from using a publicly-funded forum for political ends, or to comment on issues that don't directly affect Londoners.

As a result, the Tories reported Ken to the GLA's chief executive, Anthony Meyer, who is now carrying out an inquiry into the affair.

Sources in Meyer's office say Livingstone will be forced to issue a formal apology, and refund any cost to the taxpayers of posting the article.

Last night, the Mayor's office was unusually contrite.

"It was perfectly appropriate for the Mayor to write about the issue, but it shouldn't have gone up on the GLA website," said a spokesman. "As soon as this was pointed out, it was removed. There was no financial cost to the GLA."

* When Patrick Stewart quit Hollywood in favour of his native UK, he might have hoped for an easy life.

Instead, the upstanding star of stage, screen and Star Trek has received an ear-bashing from Lord May, one of Britain's foremost scientists.

His crime? Playing the character Alan Hood - a scientific adviser to the Government - in the TV series Eleventh Hour.

"Hood leads a more dashing life than I did when I was chief scientific adviser to the Government," complains May, in an article for the TES.

"His time is spent running around the countryside accompanied by... a gun-toting Lara Croft figure who is his 'protection officer'."

If that wasn't bad enough, Stewart's character suggests Labour condones human cloning; in fact, it does no such thing.

The show also has misleading statements about the spread of disease, and climate change.

Lord May reckons: "These are the wilder shores of media irresponsibility." I doubt he's a fan of Star Trek.

* One of my Fleet Street rivals (protocol requires me to describe him as "ill-informed") does a very great injustice to Damian Lewis.

This week, the likeable ginger-nut was accused of neglecting to purchase an engagement ring for his new fiancée, fellow actor Helen McCrory.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Lewis acquired a ring several weeks ago, but failed to order the correct size.

"It's currently sitting on her thumb, actually," he tells me. "That's the only place it will fit at the moment, so she's wearing it there. For now."

Meanwhile, Lewis and McCrory's nuptials are already causing minor family squabbles.

McCrory - speaking after Josephine Hart's poetry hour at the British Library - is under pressure to hold a Catholic wedding.

"I haven't even been baptised yet, but I've got half my family, devout Catholics, saying I won't be going to heaven if we don't," she reports.

* Chris Huhne was yesterday revealed to be the proud owner of not one, not two, but nine different homes.

For a (supposedly) left-leaning Lib Dem leadership candidate, this was considered something of an embarrassment.

It does put him in good company, though: in 2001, the then Labour minister Michael Meacher was lampooned for owning a total of nine homes.

These days, Meacher earns occasional shillings as a newspaper columnist, making him a perfect candidate to defend his fellow champagne socialist in print.

But, staggeringly, no one has yet commissioned him. It's a terrible oversight, so if Meacher e-mails 50 words on the matter, I'll carry them (in full) on Monday. Fee: £40.

* Sam Taylor-Wood is the latest pillar of London's chattering classes to develop an unhealthy obsession with Johnny Cash.

A couple of weeks back, the modish artist reviewed Walk the Line - a biographical film about Cash - for an episode of Newsnight Review.

So taken was ST-W by the flick that friends tell me she's already been to see it another half-dozen times.

"Sam just can't get enough of it," I'm told. "At the moment, she's going to see the film every other night.

"Obviously, she's getting a bit sick of popcorn and fizzy drinks; I think Jay [Jopling, her husband] is getting pretty bored, too."

Taylor-Wood is fond of repetitive films. The National Portrait Gallery houses her video portrait of David Beckham: it shows footage of the footballer, sleeping, played on constant loop.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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