Marr and the minister who liked to 'pick up pretty boys'

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* In a move that mirrors Ulrika Jonsson's stitching-up of John Leslie, Andrew Marr has used his memoirs to suggest that an (as-yet) unnamed former Tory minister was a predatory homosexual.

* In a move that mirrors Ulrika Jonsson's stitching-up of John Leslie, Andrew Marr has used his memoirs to suggest that an (as-yet) unnamed former Tory minister was a predatory homosexual.

Recalling one of Lord Archer's shepherd's pie and Krug parties in the late 1980s, Marr informs readers of a very public dispute between the man in question and his angry wife.

"At one of the Archer parties, a Cabinet minister arrived in the middle of a ferocious row with his wife," writes the BBC's political editor. "In front of a circle of awe-struck journalists, she announced that she was off 'so that you can pick up some pretty boys - we all know that's what you like'."

To the credit of the various witnesses, the incident - which at the time might have sparked a minor scandal - never went fully reported, although it was carefully alluded to on a few occasions.

Marr's memoir could change that, though. For I gather that both ex-minister and his wife are still very much alive, and will now be mighty worried about their names becoming public.

Fortunately, Marr won't yet be tempted to spill the beans. "This all took place during the Thatcher era, around 1988 or 1989," he told me yesterday.

"It's a historic story, but he's still alive, so I don't think in all honesty that I can reveal who it was."

* SAMANTHA MORTON has re-ignited the row over the decision to drop her from the cast of Terry Gilliam's next film, The Brothers Grimm .

The actress claims she was denied a role in the flick - due out in the new year - because its American backers considered her arms to be too fat.

"I don't think I'm allowed to talk about it, but I will anyway," she tells Time Out . "Terry wanted me for the role and the actors wanted me for the role, but there was a complication over the studio, over money and over my weight.

"I think I'm a healthy size. I'm an 8-10. I'm not going down the road of having my teeth done, and my boobs done. I'm a healthy person. I train, and was a gymnast as a child."

The film's backers, incidentally, were Harvey and Bob Weinstein, a pair who can comfortably be accused of having eaten all the pies.

* HAVING LAUNCHED Wimbledon - his first British film for some time - Paul Bettany, far right, is high-tailing it back to Hollywood to star opposite Harrison Ford in a thriller called The Wrong Element .

"I play the wrong element," Bettany tells me. "I could claim that I've been the victim of Hollywood politics, and been cast as the bad guy because I'm English. But to be honest, the US has always been incredibly nice to me."

Comparing himself to man-of-the-moment Jude Law, Bettany adds: "I've never been in a thriller before and I didn't want to get typecast as a Jude Law look-alike romantic lead, so it's a bit of a break."

* Another day, another inventive PR exercise from Ken Livingstone. He has just bought five black cabs and sent them to the United States, to drum up interest in our capital city.

"They are doing a coast-to-coast tour," says a spokesman for Ken's tourist authority, Visit London. "People in the cities they visit can hail them in the street for a ride. Yesterday they met the Mayor of Boston."

The whole thing is costing £850,000, which is bound to upset Livingstone's political opponents. They're also about to kick up a fuss over another expensive foreign jaunt: his trip to the Olympics, which did for £26,500.

* Alarm in literary circles yesterday, when VS Naipaul pulled out of a lecture citing poor health. His Orange Word talk at the Criterion theatre was cancelled at a few hours' notice, "due to unforseen circumstances".

Fortunately, I gather that the 72-year-old literary monolith - who has won both the Nobel and Booker prizes - is suffering nothing more serious than a sore back.

Friends say he's been advised to rest for a couple of days. "I didn't know the talk had been called off, but if it has, it will be because of his back," says Naipaul's agent, Gillon Aitken when I call.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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