Parliament's men in tights won't go down without a fight

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The Independent Online

* After taking the blame for recent lapses in security at the House of Commons, the so-called "Men in Tights" have gone on the offensive against the very MPs who are trying to abolish them.

* After taking the blame for recent lapses in security at the House of Commons, the so-called "Men in Tights" have gone on the offensive against the very MPs who are trying to abolish them.

The Serjeant at Arms, Sir Michael Cummins (pictured, in full finery) - who will shortly be relieved of his responsibility for security at Westminster - is attempting to prevent politicians from "muscling in" on state occasions in order to gain free publicity.

In a prickly letter sent to Labour's Chief Whip, Hilary Armstrong, the beleaguered official accuses MPs of exploiting the State Opening of Parliament, by refusing to sit where they are supposed to.

According to tradition, MPs must remain in the Commons until summoned by Black Rod. However, in recent years they've been hanging around in the Members' Lobby before joining the procession to the House of Lords.

"Apparently, this gives them a better chance of getting on TV," I'm told. "Sir Michael has decided to flex his muscles and put an end to it. He's being a bit pathetic, but then so are the MPs who want to get their faces on telly."

The letter was brought to the attention of a recent meeting of the Parliamentary Committee, which includes Armstrong, Tony Blair and John Prescott. They are now expected to read the riot act to publicity-hungry MPs, prior to the next State Opening on Tuesday.

* READERS MAY wish to join me in bidding a fond farewell to Janet Street-Porter, who is off to Melbourne to take part in the latest series of I'm a Celebrity ... Get me Out of Here.

If nothing else, my colleague is likely to stir things up a treat in the Australian bush, where the reality TV series is being made.

"I'm flying out later than all the other people on the show, because I don't want to spend time with the sort of people I wouldn't want to know anyway," she explains, cheerily.

JS-P's fellow contestants include Sophie Anderton ("has she read any books?"), Paul Burrell ("I'll get him to help with my washing"), and the fallen teen idol Brian Harvey.

But unlike previous contestants, she's unlikely to find love on the show: "I would rather sleep with a cockroach than with any of that lot," she adds.

* PIERS MORGAN and Amanda Platell (pictured) didn't exactly put Robert Kilroy-Silk to the sword on their political TV show at the weekend. It's a shame, since UKIP were invited to brief the duo and had suggested some questions which (I am assured) would have bought old Orange Gob to the boil.

"Channel Four told us they wanted train-wreck television, but they didn't use our questions, so it ended up being a fawning interview," says a party source.

Over to Morgan & Platell 's producers: "We asked a number of people to help in research, but some of the issues that UKIP suggested didn't fit with the tone of the show."

* PETE TOWNSHEND has scrapped his long-awaited book on child sex abuse.

Two years ago, the Who guitarist - who was arrested for accessing child pornography on the internet - said he'd been "researching" a memoir on the subject. Shortly afterwards, he was placed on the sex offenders register for five years. And now that very book - provisional title: A Different Bomb - has been abandoned.

"This is the book I spoke about that was in preparation when I was arrested," reads an explanation, on his personal website. "It's about the impact and danger of child porn on the internet: essays about and interviews with casualties of abuse or survivors like myself. I have shelved it. I can't venture publicly into this area again."

* Believe it or not, Neil and Christine Hamilton have missed an opportunity to cash in on what remains of their dignity. The couple were due to open the Erotica exhibition - the "adult entertainment" industry's annual trade fair - at Olympia on Thursday, but have suddenly cancelled, following a disagreement over their fee.

"We were about to sign a contract, when we were told they wanted more cash than we'd originally budgeted for," says an organiser. "We've decided to spend that money on extra champagne instead."

Neil, who was to have donned leather bondage gear for the event, has few regrets. "We're going up to Sheffield instead, but I don't want to comment on things that we aren't doing," he says.