Publishers set to sabotage Charlie's return to frontline

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The Independent Online

* Charles Kennedy's much-vaunted return to the political stage has been hijacked by an act of literary sabotage.

Next month, Kennedy is due to make a speech at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, his first appearance since he was unceremoniously dumped as party leader last January.

But in a commercial move, publishers of Greg Hurst's biography, Charles Kennedy: A Tragic Flaw, have decided to delay its release date to coincide with the conference.

The book, which was supposed to be released last month, now threatens to cast a shadow over Kennedy's proposed comeback, as it will reveal a number of details about his battle with alcohol addiction. It is also expected to make several claims about events leading up to his demise that could prove hugely embarrassing to his party colleagues.

"The timing of the release is clearly deliberate and couldn't come at a worse time for Charles, or the party as a whole," says one Lib Dem colleague.

"There's expected to be a lot of fallout from the book, and there's a real danger Charles's conference speech could end up being overshadowed by all the resulting fuss."

When I call Methuen, the book's publisher, a spokesman is happy to confirm the timing of the release is more than coincidental.

"It was originally for July or August, but this is obviously good timing," I'm told.

* With a fortune reputed to be worth just south of £100m, Damien Hirst is one of Britain's most successful artists.

So why is his company late filing its accounts? His Soho-based venture, Science Ltd, was meant to have filed its accounts nearly two months ago, according to Companies House.

"We've sent a letter to inform the company that their accounts are now due," says a spokesman for Companies House.

"The procedure is usually that they'll receive three warnings before any other action is taken."

Of course, filing accounts late is nothing unusual and by no means suggests financial trouble, but sometimes it never hurts to check.

"I don't know anything about this and to be honest I don't think it's anyone else's business," a Science Ltd employee tells me when I call.

* Could we be about to see a spat between two of the biggest players on the London art scene?

Julia Peyton-Jones, above right, the grande dame of the modern art world and director of Kensington's voguish Serpentine Galleries, has launched a cheeky dig at the Turner Prize, the annual award held at the Tate gallery, which is run by Sir Nicholas Serota, below right.

"I think the Turner Prize has, for some artists, really not been such a productive thing," she says.

"There is some sort of public exposure. I mean, it's easy to mention the Turner Prize but, you know, there are lots of examples of an artist whose work you go and see in an exhibition, and you go full of expectation, and it's disappointing."

Peyton-Jones's comments, which appear in Adam Lindeman's new book Collecting Contemporary, are all the more surprising since relations between the two galleries are usually described as "civil".

* Tory MP Ed Vaizey has really taken to his current task of sleeping rough with the homeless. Mr Vaizey agreed to spend this week in a night shelter in Bedford for the King's Arm Project.

"I feel I've known the residents and the staff for ages," he reports in his online diary.

"As Jeepers Creepers 2 came to an end, I felt I had simply gone to a friend's house to watch telly."

He has even found time for a spot of party political canvassing. "I've had long discussions on politics," he adds, before saying: "Even the homeless think the country's going to the dogs."

* With a swift flick of his wand, Paul Daniels has narrowly avoided the sort of howler which could have put paid to his saw-wielding magic act for good.

Next month, the chucklesome entertainer faced the potential embarrassment of performing to an empty audience at a gig he'd agreed to do at a town hall in Norwich. According to organisers, the problem was that none of the locals believed a celebrity of Daniels' stature would be performing, and presumed it would be an impersonator.

The crisis was only averted after Daniels issued a statement confirming his appearance. "I've offered to perform an extra night on 31 August as well as 1 September," he said. "And I'm really look forward to it." Not a lot!