Old sparring partners to meet at the altar rail

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The Independent Online

If Tony Blair, as it is widely rumoured, does end up purchasing Winslow Hall in Buckinghamshire, he is likely to find himself breaking bread, quite literally, with one of his former opponents.

One of the unique selling points of the £3m pile, which he and Cherie have viewed twice now, is that it comes complete with its own Roman Catholic chapel within its ample grounds.

This facility is thought to have appealed particularly to Blair, who has often hinted that he might convert to Catholicism once his premiership had come to an end.

There is one potential drawback, however. The chapel, which is used by the Catholics of Winslow for worship, just so happens to be regularly attended by the (Catholic) one-time Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

"Iain lives nearby in Swanbourne, so it's his local Catholic church," I'm told. "He sometimes attends an Anglican church with Betsy, who's C of E, but he also goes to the chapel at Winslow."

Duncan Smith would no doubt revel in their renewed confrontation. He's already said that he'd welcome the Blairs to Buckinghamshire, and that he hoped they could resume the discussions they once shared over the dispatch box.

Says a spokesman for IDS: "I don't know if Iain goes to Winslow regularly, but he does go and has certainly been there quite recently. Interestingly, he's already seen Cherie at the chapel, but he's not seen Tony yet."

Colin's still not ready to commit to Piers

Colin Firth attended last week's BFI London Film Festival to promote his worthy documentary, In Prison My Whole Life, based on the life of the death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.

But what of his opus on that other world-renowned man of letters, Piers Morgan?

Last year, Morgan informed Pandora he and the foppish British star were in talks about a developing a script on his best-selling diaries, The Insider, with a view to Firth playing the lead.

"Since he fully supported my stance on the Iraq war, he'd see it as a privilege to play me. We're sending him a script as soon as it's finished," Morgan told me at the time.

Firth, however, still doesn't sound wholly committed.

"I keep getting ambushed with questions about Piers Morgan," he tells me. "I love Piers dearly, but I really have no comment as I don't know yet."

Boot. Foot. Other ...

The recent furore surrounding Halle Berry's supposedly anti-Semitic remarks on US television might seem like a storm in a teacup, but she of all people should have known better.

The Oscar-winning actress was forced to apologise last week after she described a doctored photo showing her with a big nose to the chat-show host Jay Leno as her "Jewish cousin".

Berry was involved in an eerily similar episode in the UK last year, when she appeared on the Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles's breakfast show.

When Moyles began mimicking what he described as a "big fat black guy", Berry (somewhat hysterically) suggested he was having a "racist moment".

Moyles didn't apologise. He just told her to get over herself.

Disrespect

There are serious grumblings of discontent within George Galloway's Respect alliance. Four of the party's Tower Hamlets councillors have just resigned the whip to become independents after series of busts-ups with their group leader, Abjol Miah.

In written statement, the gang of four announced: "Cllr Abjol Miah has over an extended period failed to demonstrate the basic qualities and competencies essential for the post of group and Opposition leader.

"His approach and conduct have been detrimental to the spirit of a united coalition that brings together a range of groups and individuals of different background and political persuasions."

Since another councillor defected to Labour earlier this year, Respect's 12 councillors, once described by "Gorgeous" as the "Bengali Tigers", are down to just seven.

Shop till you drop ...

I do hope the good news surrounding the recent birth of Sacha Baron Cohen and his partner Isla Fisher's baby isn't about to be ruined by a nasty contractual dispute.

Next year, Fisher is due to appear in the big screen version of Sophie Kinsella's best selling novel Confessions of a Shopaholic. But according to this week's Jewish Chronicle, she's now decided to take the next few years off.

"I am not even planning any work," she says. As far as I am concerned I am fully booked up in my personal life and I can't see beyond that. I plan on just colouring in books. I'll focus on that for the next few years."

Says a spokesman for Fisher: "The quotes are old. At the time Isla did not have any work commitments. Since that time she has committed to one film project in 2008."

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