Poster war raises tempers in contest for Cook's old seat

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The Independent Online

The Scottish Labour Party has landed itself deep in the doo-doo after posters endorsing its candidate Jim Devine were discovered in a number of "illegal" sites across the constituency.

Although the local council has ordered the offending posters to be taken down, Labour activists were last night unceremoniously refusing to shift them.

The farcical stand-off follows a complaint by local Liberal Democrats, who discovered Cook's former activists erecting posters in the middle of traffic islands and on the verges of dual carriageways.

"This is against the rules, so we made a formal complaint to the local council, which was upheld," they say. "But amazingly, the posters are still there, in clear breach of the rules."

A spokesman for Devine admits that the council has found against them on the matter, but denies having been formally asked to move the "illegal" election posters.

"There has been a bit of a comedy of errors," I'm told. "The council put out a press statement saying we should move the posters. However, they didn't actually phone us to tell us to move them."

"Until they do this, our position is that we haven't been properly told to move the posters, so we're going to carry on regardless."

Cunning, aren't they?

* The first night of Joseph Fiennes' new West End play An Epitaph for George Dillon on Tuesday came within a whisker of disaster.

During the first act of the show Fiennes is required to seduce his co-star, Zoe Tapper, before dragging her off to the bedroom.

Unfortunately, when it came to the crucial moment, a doorknob came off in Fiennes' hand leaving him stranded on stage.

There followed an uneasy pause, before Fiennes (in a feat of improvisation) dragged his enamoured co-star off through an alternative exit.

"Thankfully, I managed to stay in character ," recalled Fiennes, during the after-show party at Mint Leaf restaurant. "I had to take her in the kitchen, as it were. First nights are always terrifying, so I'm just glad it's over."

During the interval, the theatre called an emergency handyman to fix the faulty set. "The lock broke, so we threw it in the bin," says a spokesman. "It won't be happening again."

* Michael Winner, who is about to celebrate his 70th birthday, has made a timely announcement concerning his posthumous legacy.

In a postscript to the new paperback edition of his autobiography Winner Takes All, the bon viveur says that he intends to be buried in St James' Park.

"I've now decided that I want to be buried on the site where the National Police Memorial is," he writes. "I'm not sure anyone has ever been buried in a Royal Park. Actually I think some dogs were! But I shall pursue this vigorously."

Vigorous or not, he'll have an uphill struggle. "We have indeed never buried anyone," says the Royal Parks Authority. "On that basis it looks like he'll get a no, but we wouldn't be able to say for sure until an official request came through."

* Gary Rhodes recently refused to appear in a public debate with Giles Coren, but he isn't the only superchef to have taken against the restaurant critic.

At a GQ party this month, the sommelier from one of London's top restaurants became involved in a heated argument over one of Coren's reviews. Says a witness: "he shouted that Brian Turner is out to 'get' Giles."

Coren recalls being given a "hard time", but insists: "despite what you've heard, it never got physical. I told the sommelier to calm down, because we were supposed to be at a party."

Either way, poor old Coren's on a few hit lists at present. His name crops up in relation to an unsavoury revelation in Michael Ashcroft's new memoir about his legal battles with The Times.

* Here's a row of the sort you couldn't make up: the EU flag fluttering outside the European Parliament building in Westminster was yesterday declared illegal.

For this development, we must thank the UK Independence Party. They made a formal complaint to Westminster Council after discovering that planning permission has not been granted for it.

Under UK law, all flags - apart from national ones - must be OK'd by local authorities before being fixed to buildings, since they are officially classified as advertising material. The EU flag is not a national flag.

"The general public should be protected from this sort of false advertising promoting worthless tat," reckons UKIP's bullish MEP Nigel Farage. "This is the most important victory for consumer power in decades."