Phillips seems uninspired by the prospect of meeting with Lammy

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The Independent Online

There are signs of a widening diplomatic rift between Britain's first black Culture minister, David Lammy, and Trevor Phillips, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, who recently declared: "Multiculturalism is dead".

In October, Lammy, launched a thinly-veiled attack on Phillips, far right, in a speech marking Black History Month: "I'm nervous at the haste with which multiculturalism is being sent to the knacker's yard."

Yesterday, there was further evidence of discord. Both men were invited to the launch of Inspire, an Arts Council initiative to encourage more "black, Asian, and ethnic minority" museum curators.

Lammy jumped at the chance, and agreed to give a speech backing the project, which is supported by all London's major galleries.

Phillips, however, said he wouldn't be able to attend the event - held at Tate Britain at 9am - due to diary commitments.

Other guests smell fish, noting that the launch has been on the agenda for several months. "It's one of the biggest race-relations projects of the year," says one. "We suspect Phillips was simply reluctant to face the Culture minister."

The man himself insists otherwise. "He had other plans already," a CRE spokesman tells me.

* What are we to make of the prospects for Christian Slater's eagerly-awaited return to the West End stage?

In the summer, the impresario Nica Burns, who brought Slater across the Atlantic for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, announced that he'd be returning to London in a production of the Tennessee Williams play Sweet Bird of Youth.

The show was originally expected to open this autumn, but we're now into winter, and there's still no sign of it reaching fruition.

"Things haven't worked out yet, but it's very much still on the agenda," says a spokesman for Burns.

"In fact, Nica held a Cuckoo's Nest reunion, and it was discussed there.

"It can be difficult to find space in everyone's schedules."

Meanwhile Slater, left, who split from his wife earlier in the year, has been hitting the party circuit with a vengeance.

He was recently arrested in Manhattan for allegedly groping a woman's buttocks while drunk.

* On Tuesday, Terry Wogan visited Buckingham Palace in order to receive a knighthood from an old fan, Her Majesty the Queen.

Perhaps the episode will feature in Sir Tel's latest literary project, a second set of memoirs to follow Is it Me?, his first autobiography published just four years ago.

Friends of Wogan, right, also wonder if he'll use the book to nail unfounded and malicious rumours suggesting that he's taken to wearing a hairpiece and using the "sprucing-up" product, Just For Men.

Sadly, the publisher Orion isn't in a position to say. "We don't know, as it's not coming out until next autumn, and hasn't been delivered yet," says a spokesman.

"All we've heard is that this book will have more in it about his childhood, as there wasn't much about that in the last one."

* Harold Pinter's stepson Orlando Fraser, who stood as a Tory candidate at the last general election, is now a pin-up for another right-leaning institution: Country Life.

The thirty-something bachelor has done a photo-shoot and interview for this week's edition of the tweedy glossy, alongside his closest personal chum.

Describing the elderly male companion in question, Fraser notes: "He has been a good Cupid; and strikes great affection into the female heart. He is handsome, loyal, clever, and randy as a goat."

Sadly - although Pinter ticks all these boxes - Fraser is in fact talking about his pet dog, a border terrier called Trevor.

* The literary agent Ed Victor, one of the biggest beasts in English letters, recently sold Eric Clapton's memoirs for $4m.

He'll have trousered 15 per cent, but that isn't the only windfall to have just landed at Victor's impeccably turned-out feet. Having just turned 66, he's also eligible for the Government's winter fuel allowance.

At the bar of the Garrick Club the other night, Victor was heard discussing his recent good fortune.

"Ed announced to the world in general that Tony Blair's winter fuel allowance is wonderful, because the money he gets from it is enough to fill his Bentley with petrol four times over," says a fellow member.

"He then added, by way of a punchline, 'at least, my wife tells me it's enough'. Presumably, this means that Mrs Victor is required to visit the petrol station on his behalf." Splendid!

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