Outrage as MPs' 'equality' group tries to bar Tatchell

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The Independent Online

* There are few more strident "equality" campaigners than Peter Tatchell, founder and figurehead of the gay rights pressure group OutRage!.

Ironic, then, to find him in dispute with one of the most politically-correct organisations in Britain, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Equalities.

Yesterday, the group held a seminar on the "potential conflict between different kinds of rights" at which the panel of speakers included Mohammed Aziz, an adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain.

Tatchell who has been in dispute with the Muslim Council over its attitude towards homosexuality, wrote to the organisers asking for an invitation to attend the event with his deputy, Aaron Saeed.

However, a few days later, he received a negative reply. In a letter seen by this column, organisers claimed the seminar was an "internal" event limited to MPs and a few special guests.

Smelling a rat, Tatchell asked committee member Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP, to check that such a rule did indeed apply. And yesterday, it emerged that one jolly well did not.

Tatchell now suspects an orchestrated plot to prevent him attending the bash at Portcullis House. "They said this morning I could come along after all, but by then it was too late; I had other commitments," he said.

The seminar's organiser, Moira Dustin - who wrote the original letter to Tatchell - denies any funny business, but was anxious to make peace with Tatchell last night. "He will certainly be invited to our future events," she said.

* First, Camilla Parker Bowles upset the fluffy bunny brigade by wearing a rabbit-fur scarf; now Prince Charles's wardrobe has set the cat among the pigeons.

At the weekend, it emerged that our future king has ditched bespoke Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard in favour of off-the-peg numbers from Turnbull & Asser.

So far, so good. But who should turn out to be reaping the benefit of his change in tailor but royal bête noire, Mohamed Fayed.

In a coincidence that has (apparently) escaped Charles's notice, the Harrods owner's family has controlled Turnbull & Asser for several years. Indeed, the firm's chairman is his younger brother, Ali.

It's particularly odd, since the royal warrant was withdrawn from Fayed's department store during the 1990s.

Nonetheless, the palace claims to be unperturbed at lining Fayed's pockets. "We've no idea who the tailors are owned by," said a spokesman. "The Prince's shopping is a matter of personal taste."

* Another day, another dollop of fallout from Melvyn Bragg's South Bank Show awards, which took place at the Savoy on Friday.

Yesterday, I learnt that the graffiti artist Banksy had given his ticket for the swanky bash to a Big Issue seller called Steve.

Now comes news of a shouty altercation between Tracey Emin and the Glaswegian opera director David McVicar at the after-show party.

"Tracey and David both tried to grab the same drink," reports an onlooker. "There wasn't much booze around, so things got rather nasty.

"I saw them call each other a c-word. Goodness knows what happened after that, but McVicar ended up running away in tears."

Yesterday, Emin took full responsibility for the row. A spokesman blamed excess alcohol, and admitted she'd later been taken sick. "Tracey should never have gone out on that day. And if so, never alone. She's so ashamed that she's leaving the country."

* News that The Spectator is vacating its palatial Doughty Street HQ has gone down like a cup of warm sick among staff there.

In recent times, the magazine's political editor, Peter Oborne, has told friends he'd "seriously consider" his position if the Barclay brothers ever flogged the Georgian townhouse.

Yesterday, I asked if he might now fall on his sword. "This all depends on the circumstances," came Oborne's reply.

"Doughty Street has been an important symbol of the independence and integrity of The Spectator; it would be a disaster if we moved to some sort of office block."

I hope his superiors are listening.

* At this time of global strife, Sir Peter Soulsby, the Labour MP for Leicester, spots a precious ray of sunshine. He's filed an Early Day Motion on Britain's first ever "clergy versus imams" football match, which took place in his constituency.

In one of the stranger documents to have been before Parliament, he commends "the imams who, being in a winning position, generously lent several players to the opposition during the second half".

We should also praise "Tony Nelson, of the Leicester Hebrew Congregation, for impeccable refereeing, and Inspector Nick Glynn, of Leicestershire Constabulary for playing vigorously for both teams".

Finally, Soulsby "encourages the clergy to train harder during the forthcoming year in preparation for the second match".

Oh, to have been a fly on that goalpost!

pandora@independent.co.uk

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