'Ming the Wing' joins the Tartan Army at Twickers

By Oliver Duff
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* News of a rare PR coup for Sir Menzies Campbell ahead of the England rugby team's clash with Scotland this weekend.

I hear that fellow Scot Gordon Brown is giving the Twickenham fixture a wide berth, having struggled of late to straddle his sporting loyalties both north and south of the border.

Ming's staff, however, crow that their boss will be in the crowd on Saturday, rooting for the land of his fathers.

And the match gives Lib Dem HQ the excuse to promote one of Ming's lesser-known sporting accomplishments, alongside his well-documented career as a record-breaking British sprinter.

"Ming will be going to the game, and he actually played at Twickenham for Edinburgh Wanderers in 1968," his spokeswoman beams when I call.

"It's actually how he came to be called Ming, as he was known as 'Ming the Wing' on the field."

She adds: "He represented Great Britain as a sprinter, supports Europe in golf's Ryder Cup and Manchester United at football." Don't fall off the fence!

Gordon Brown - himself a keen youth rugby player, as his eye injury testifies - has touted himself as a supporter of both sporting nations, without great success. The Chancellor's office is unsurprisingly cooler about Saturday's rugby match. "He won't be going," says his adviser, "because he's up in Scotland with his family this weekend."

* Forget Ron "Chopper" Harris, Norman "Bites Yer Legs" Hunter and Stuart "Psycho" Pearce. Wembley has a new bad boy: the chef Tom Aikens.

The Michelin-starred restaurateur, who has a fine history of culinary altercations, will soon get stuck into the prawn- sandwich brigade at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium.

"Slasher" Aikens (as he is not likely to be known any time soon) is a star signing to create the dessert menu in Wembley's exclusive Corinthians Club, where tickets and hospitality cost £691 a match.

"I have a friend on the board of Manchester United, Maurice Watkins, so I go up there to watch games," Aikens tells me. "When Wembley asked me to do this, I thought it was a great opportunity to see the football and concerts in incredible surroundings."

Possible dishes for his dessert menu? FA Cupcakes, Tarte à l'Half-Time Orange, Sour Grapes and the José Mourinho Humble Pie.

The best suggestion, e-mailed to the address at the top, wins a bottle of fizz.

* One might assume that in June 2003, the staff of American Vice-President Dick Cheney had little spare time on their hands, what with the US bringing democracy to Iraq.

Not so. Dick's then-chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, held a meeting at the White House with the oddball actor Tom Cruise to discuss... the treatment of Scientologists in Germany.

Cruise had fired off an angry letter: "I learned of attempts to sabotage performances of two American artists solely because they are members of the Church [sic] of Scientology... I am endeavouring to meet Cheney on this matter while I am in Washington." Libby invited him in.

A CIA witness at Libby's ongoing perjury trial recalls: "Mr Libby told me about it. He was a little excited about it."

* Arthur Smith's expletive-laden warm-up wowed guests at last year's Critics' Circle Theatre Awards - among them Kevin Spacey, the director Michael Grandage and the actor Simon Russell Beale.

Most impressed were the five young Billy Elliots, whose vocabularies the comedian helpfully expanded.

He was warned to behave this year, but yesterday lunchtime again excelled himself compering the gongs, in the bar of the Prince of Wales Theatre.

To quote the Archers actress Tamsin Greig, who took to the stage to collect her Best Shakespearean bauble immediately after Smith dropped a gag about the love lives of short, gay hotel guests: "So he tells a joke about homosexual dwarves' erections - in front of the Von Trapp family children!"

* Bernard Manning's repertoire of ethnic "jokes" (ask him the one about the cotton pickers) has led to condemnation up and down the land for many a year. Little wonder, then, that he is taking unusual lengths to ensure forgiveness in the afterlife.

Manning has been busy filming a documentary for Channel 4, to be broadcast after his death. The programme, which will feature superimposed footage of the stand-up comic attending his own funeral, has a surprisingly holy conclusion.

"I have raised millions for charity and I have never drunk, smoked, or womanised," Manning proudly declares when I call. "At the end of the programme I am going to be seen meeting St Peter, who then invites me up to Heaven. Which is nice."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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