Outrage in Africa: gay rights campaigners target Tatchell

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* Peter Tatchell's human rights activism has led to some memorable tangles. Archbishops dislike his stance on the "outing" of gay religious leaders. Robert Mugabe called Tatchell a "gay gangster", after he attempted a citizen's arrest on the Zimbabwean president. And the Daily Mail, no less, called him a "homosexual terrorist" (whatever that is).

This time I hear of disagreement within the brotherhood, however: Tatchell is at the centre of an unseemly row with fellow gay rights campaigners.

A group calling itself the African Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Human Rights Defenders has mailed Tatchell a furious letter.

Its members warn him: "Stay out of African LGBTI issues. You have proven that you have no respect for... consulting [us] before carrying out campaigns that have severe consequences in our countries. This is neocolonialism and it has no place in our struggle." They worry that his recent comments on Nigeria could prompt a crackdown on same-sex couples there.

Tatchell denies that there is any "gay civil war", and comments: "This is obviously very distressing. It's one-sided. The criticism is about the use of different tactics by different groups in different countries. We have always been willing to work with many different groups, but this seems to have caused resentment.

"We're hoping to resolve this animosity as there's no place for petty sectarianism in the human rights movement. We need to be working together."

* John Prescott took to the Commons despatch box yesterday to inform us he is "in a rather happy demob stage" of political life. Being "demob-happy" often preludes speaking one's mind and drinking experimental quantities of alcohol, so this is an intriguing development for the Government.

Prezza entertained a packed public gallery, including the cheerful thespian Timothy Spall (Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket).

"He watched Prescott with immense care," says a tickled MP, "as if he had a view to copying his mannerisms. If so, he didn't see a rounded performance because we got 'Sunshine Prescott' today. Normally, he's in a filthy mood about something."

Spall's publicist says she is unaware of any future screen portrayal of our outgoing Deputy PM. So perhaps the actor's spy mission relates to his next project, Jackboots On Whitehall, a spoof war film about the Nazis invading Britain, shot using Action Man-style dolls. Spall provides the voice of Winston Churchill.

His notes from yesterday must make interesting reading.

* He has made a packet on both sides of the Atlantic as the most acidic judge on television, but Simon Cowell, he of the shrink-wrapped crotch, may soon have some formidable opposition.

Courtney Love, the hard-living widow of Kurt Cobain, claims she has been approached to join Cowell as a panellist on US talent show American Idol. Rumours abound that she is being considered as a replacement for the judge Paula Abdul, who has denied claims she was intoxicated during recent interviews. Love told Us Weekly that producers were "wondering if I was interested. It was kind of weird, but brilliant."

Love famously exposed her breasts to US chatshow presenter David Letterman. She has been arrested for drug offences and for allegedly throwing a microphone stand which hit a man on the head. She would no doubt enjoy playing the beak for once.

* Labour MP Jon Cruddas,dark horse to become Gordon Brown's deputy, had a tricky time on Radio 4's Any Questions over gay adoption. Catholic Cruddas thought he had steered a steady course through the icebergs - until his devout mother rang him: "I never thought I would hear a son of mine disown the Cardinal!"

The House of Commons librarians, who each have 12 brains, brought Parliament's Portcullis House to a halt on Tuesday afternoon with their raucous and unexplained partying.

"MPs came out of their offices because they couldn't work with the singing and shouting," says a mole. "A frontbench MP choked on his cappucino and Frank Dobson looked surprised when he realised it was partying librarians."

* If you are a male member of the House of Lords, then please, for the benefit of your ticker, excuse my impertinence in asking you to sit down before you continue reading.

News reaches Pandora of a rogue neutering operation outside the ermine end of Parliament. A couple of people dressed in furry yellow animal costumes, a cat and a dog, were loitering around the entrance to the Lords yesterday, accompanied by three gloomy-looking real hounds, who are, no doubt, less the gentlemen they once were.

Officially, at least, this is not an attempt to control our more promiscuous peers. "It's for dogs and cats," insists an organiser, explaining that neutering makes them fight and spray less. Perhaps not so inappropriate for the Lords, after all.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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