Madeley and Morrissey square off in war of words

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The Independent Online

* Surprisingly, for a such a mild-mannered gentleman, Richard Madeley has become embroiled in the mother of all slanging matches with the outspoken singer, Morrissey.

The unlikely duo have come to blows after the dedicated vegan Morrissey, second right, castigated an audience in Oxford last month over the University's construction of an animal testing laboratory.

"Make no mistake," he said, "for anyone working in the labs, we are going to get you."

Days later, the responsible Madeley, first right, used his newspaper column to have a dig at Morrissey, second right, labelling him a "puffed-up prat" and "vainglorious strutting humbug".

And that, it seemed, was that. But Madeley's remarks have now finally filtered through to the former Smiths frontman, who has chosen to keep up the feud by posting comments on a fan's website called

"Thank you to the British television person (I'm not exactly sure what it is he does) Richard Madeley who, at least, made me laugh recently by referring to me as an 'insufferable puffed-up prat'," he says.

"This comment may or may not be true, but I think it's a bit rich coming from a man who actually married his own mother."

Whether Madeley will choose to use his column on Friday to respond remains to be seen, but he does have form when skirmishing with aging rockers. During his early days on the chatshow sofa, he once had to fend off Shakin' Stevens during a live interview.

* When David Walliams swam the channel to raise money for charity earlier this month, he was rightly praised for his efforts.

As a result, bookmakers have now installed him as the favourite for this year's coveted BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.

But although Walliams stands out as the obvious candidate - British sport has hardly excelled this year - BBC insiders reckon sporting immortality may yet be snatched from his grasp.

"Since he isn't a sportsman he may not be eligible," says one.

"So far there's not much to choose from, but there's a danger it could diminish the title if we're forced to hand it out to an actor."

When I call the BBC, a spokesman informed me a decision had not been made. He said: "The criteria for entry has not yet been decided. It may change but we're going to decide later this year."

* Sir Ian McKellen is celebrating a moral victory against George W Bush's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy towards homosexuals in the military.

McKellen has claimed that whilst fulfilling recent press commitments in Atlanta, the state governor took the measure of awarding him the honorary title of lieutenant-colonel.

As a proud homosexual and strident gay rights supporter, the honour represented something of a coup for McKellen, since openly gay men in the US military are not permitted.

"The 'don't ask, don't tell' rule obviously didn't apply to me," he told reporters. "I have a lovely certificate hanging in my office. So inadvertently, they made me the poster child for having openly gay people in the military."

* John Prescott's Stetson-clad meetings with an American billionaire, not to mention his extra-marital love life, have led to accusations that he no longer enjoys the full backing of his New Labour colleagues.

Be that as it may, he does, however, still retain the backing from his old friends at his local curry house.

The Kennington Tandoori, a long-time favourite among the Westminster horde, has now proudly placed a photo of Prezza in the restaurant's front window. The photo, which was taken a couple of years ago, shows the Deputy PM dining out with fellow Labour MP Rosie Winterton. "The restaurant owner likes to show off his famous clients," I'm told. "Prezza's been a loyal customer for donkey's years."

* Phillip Schofield might be the squeaky-clean face of morning television, but when it comes to discussing the opposite sex he's anything but.

"Pip", as he is sometimes known, has nominated his frisky co-presenter on This Morning, Fern Britton, as his ideal pin-up. Gamely, his reason for doing so is that Britton is apparently "filthy".

"She's honest, sexy, sensitive and filthy," he explains. "What more could you ask for in a woman?"

What Britton will make of her colleague's comments, which will appear this week's edition of Heat, is anyone's guess. She recently gave an interview offering her own views as to why men might find her attractive.

"It's all about my tits, isn't it?" she said.