Pandora: Miriam stirs up another controversy

The actress Miriam Margolyes caused ripples in the gay community last week when she told Radio 4's Desert Island Discs that she regretted telling her mother she was gay.

Now she finds herself at the centre of another storm in the equally powder-keg world of Middle Eastern politics. In a fortnight's time, she is due to take part in Palestine Aloud, a celebrity-filled concert marking the 60th anniversary of the "nabka", when thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes in the wake of the establishment of Israel.

The "cultural celebration", which will take place at Chelsea's Cadogan Hall, will also feature Corin Redgrave and Juliet Stevenson. The venue, however, has been bombarded with complaints from the Jewish community, who are accusing it of carrying adverts for the concert in their autumn catalogue which they say amount to a pro-Palestinian programme advertisement. They are particularly unhappy that it carries the web address of an organisation called the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Although The Jewish Chronicle was able to obtain an apology from Cadogan Hall's manager last month, Margolyes, who is Jewish, has pledged to continue her support.

"The tragic thing for any Jew to accept is that the creation of Israel was a catastrophe for the Palestinians," she says "The Jewish ideals of compassion and reciprocity have not been fulfilled and I'm ashamed."

Westwood happy with Winslet role

There was excitement in fashion circles over the weekend with news that Kate Winslet was to play Dame Vivienne Westwood in an forthcoming biopic.

Although the fresh-faced Winslet might not be everyone's obvious choice to play the punk designer (Samantha Morton, peut-être?), Westwood is reported to be thrilled at the casting. "She was quite surprised as she hasn't been that closely involved with the project," says a friend. "But, all in all, she's very happy about it."

Meanwhile, there is no word yet on how much Westwood's children, Ben Westwood and Joe Corre (whose father is the former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren) will feature in the script, although Westwood Jnr has his own ideas about who should play him. "I'd be quite keen on Al Pacino circa Scarface," he tells me. "I don't know about Joe – Jesus Christ probably."

A good kicking in the kidneys

Kidney stones are no laughing matter – just ask Peter Mandelson – but trying telling it to Radio 5 Live's Victoria Derbyshire. Twice did the usually hard-nosed presenter attempt to relay news of the new Business and Enterprise Minister being admitted to hospital yesterday, before she descended into a fit of giggles that made Brian Johnston's guffaws following a gag about Ian Botham's sex life look small beer by comparison.

After finally managing to compose herself, a delirious-sounding Derbyshire said: "I do apologise, I've never suffered a kidney stone. It could be really painful."

However, that wasn't enough to prevent enough another cackling fit just moments later, prompting the show's producer to divert hastily to the weather.

The programme's editor, Lou Birt, later insisted: "She wasn't taking the mick out of people who've had one. It's just that the piece I wrote for her sounded funny."

Ooh, Kirsty

*When Griff Rhys Jones isn't throwing tantrums, he says he enjoys watching Kirsty Wark on Newsnight "like most men", he tells this week's Closer magazine. "All the female newsreaders are rather lovely, I think."

Blair avoids another run-in with Boris

Days after being sacked by Boris Johnson, Sir Ian Blair has side-stepped a potentially awkward public face-off with the London Mayor.

Last night, the deposed Metropolitan Police Commissioner was due to make an appearance as a guest at the Wallace Collection for the launch of the London Evening Standard's list of the 1,000 most influential people in London, which includes Sir Ian.

Since the place was both crawling with hungry hacks and also featured an appearance by Johnson, Blair (who is now said to be working on his memoirs) obviously decided that it was a good night to be washing his hair.

"Sir Ian was due to attend but he cancelled first thing on Monday morning," I'm told.

House proves a snip at £25m

When the US banker Charles McVeigh put his luxury pile, Encombe House, up for sale for £25m last month, credit crunch doom-mongers chorused: "No chance." It was interesting, then, to hear rumours at the weekend that he might already have found a buyer for the house on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. Not so, say estate agents at Savills – but they are getting close. "We have a lot of interested parties and are hoping to be able to conclude things soon," I'm told.

Enfield under fire from Philippines

More controversy for Harry Enfield, who revealed at the weekend that the BBC had banned him from playing a sex-crazed Muslim in his show Harry And Paul. Now a congresswoman in the Philippines is demanding a public apology over one of Enfield's sketches, in which a Filipina maid was forced to cavort sexily with her boss's "pet Northerner". "It was an insensitive and racist attempt to satirise a scene of exploitation," she says.

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