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Kilroy starts civil war in yet another right-wing party

Robert Kilroy-Silk's attempt to set up his own political party isn't just upsetting former chums at the UK Independence Party, it also looks like being a nail in the coffin of the New Party for Britain.

Robert Kilroy-Silk's attempt to set up his own political party isn't just upsetting former chums at the UK Independence Party, it also looks like being a nail in the coffin of the New Party for Britain.

As this column first revealed, the MEP and former chat-show host intends to contest the general election on behalf of Veritas, a new party of which he is both leader and founder member.

First though, he must secure financial support. With that in mind, Kilroy recently held secret meetings with the so-called New Party, which is bankrolled by the Scottish tycoon Robert Durward.

Launched in a blaze of publicity a couple of years back, the right-leaning New Party has since struggled. Kilroy, I'm told, offered to join its ranks so long as he could immediately become leader.

This was discussed by the party's executive committee. But after a lengthy debate, it was rejected by 5 votes to 4. As a result, several Kilroy supporters - including the policy director Jonathan Lockhart - have resigned, and are now working for Veritas.

Official spokesmen won't discuss the row, but insiders say that Kilroy and Lockhart were involved in a "clash of egos" with Durward.

Meanwhile, with Kilroy reluctant to dig into his own pockets, Veritas - unkindly nicknamed "Vanitas" - continues its search for a backer.

* THE ACTOR Juliet Stevenson has further evidence of Dame Stella Rimington's transformation from spymaster to 21st-century media celebrity.

The former MI5 boss has been helping Stevenson with her next film, in which she plays a female spy dealing with a terrorist attack. It's called Red Mercury Rising , and is about the siege of a London restaurant," said Stevenson, at the launch of the Bird's Eye View Film Festival.

"We don't demonise the terrorists, but present them as lost souls. I play a Stella Rimington-type character, so we met over lunch to discuss the role. I can tell you she is not as forbidding as you might expect."

If nothing else, the film, which co-stars Peter Postlethwaite, has been painstakingly researched.

"We also spoke to an ex-member of the Metropolitan Police, Roy Ram, who drew up strategy after the siege of the Iranian Embassy," says its producer, Peter Ansorge.

* SIR PETER HALL'S entry in Who's Who - already a whopping nine column inches - is making progress towards being the longest in recent times.

Displaying the energy of a man half his age, the 74-year-old director spent last week flip-flopping the Atlantic, overseeing the opening of three shows - two in London and one in Boston.

"The only bind about all of this is jetlag," he reports, from the set of his new West End show, Whose Life is it Anyway? "But as soon as this is finished, I'm off to LA for the opening of As You Like It. I'm also doing a play with Nick Lyndhurst, and later this year an opera at Glyndebourne, three plays at Bath, and another opera, in Chicago."

Retirement, he adds, is out of the question "unless others force it upon me".

* GORDON BROWN'S recent tour of Africa has upset allies of the Prime Minister, who consider Nelson Mandela - with whom the Chancellor was photographed - to be a Friend of Tony.

Now, with relentless predictability, comes their riposte. "Gordon's desperate to look like a world statesman, but it's a total PR exercise," says one. "Before Make Poverty History became trendy, he'd barely set foot on the continent."

Indeed. Brown's office rather sheepishly says that he's made just one other trip to Africa since taking office. That was back in 1998, when he spent a day in Soweto, en route to a Commonwealth meeting.

* Doon Mackichan, the elegant linchpin of Smack the Pony, has suffered a setback in her bid to launch a film career.

"I've just spent ages writing a script about three women who swim the English Channel," Mackichan tells me. "But I think someone stole my idea: I've discovered that another film's being released, about a bloke from a council estate swimming the Channel."

"I wanted mine to be first, so I am going to turn up at the premiere in a bathing suit covered in lard and accost the director, screaming: "I was first!'"

That's a bold gesture: Mackichan quietly adds that both she and her co-star Fiona Allen recently gave birth.

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