Revealed: Far right links of Barrymore's bête noire

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The Independent Online

* If you thought the plot surrounding the return to public life of Michael Barrymore couldn't possibly get any thicker, think again.

On Monday, Tony Bennett, a lawyer representing the parents of Stuart Lubbock, who died at Barrymore's Essex home in 2001, turned up at the Celebrity Big Brother studios, and attempted to serve legal papers on the troubled entertainer.

Now it emerges that Bennett, who has quickly become Barrymore's bête noire, is himself in possession of a - shall we say? - "colourful" past, on the fringes of right-wing politics.

A few years back, when he was known as plain Anthony Bennett, the retired solicitor made unflattering headlines when was sacked by the UK Independence Party after publishing a pamphlet that described the prophet Mohamed as a paedophile.

He swiftly decamped to Robert Kilroy-Silk's Veritas party, where he briefly became leader. However that also ended in tears, after The Guardian published a front-page exclusive detailing his close links with Ian Anderson, a former chairman of the National Front.

How such a chap ended up taking on Barrymore is anyone's guess. But yesterday, the man himself insisted that politics were irrelevant to the legal proceedings.

"It would be amazing if anyone brought that up," he said. "The Guardian piece was very unfair. The so-called link was tentative. My career shows that I am in no way a racist."

* You wait all this time for a celebrity chef to write his autobiography, then three come along at once.

With Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White preparing (no doubt) provocative memoirs this summer, I learn that Antonio Carluccio is also putting pen to paper. The cuddly restaurateur has begun knocking out the first instalment of his life story, which will cover his Italian childhood.

"It'll be published by Quadrille, who do my cookbooks," he said at Monday's Harpers restaurant awards. "It's about my life until I was 20, and there will be more about my later life. It doesn't have a title yet, but I'm working on it."

Whatever the book is called, expect waves. Although Carluccio isn't a controversialist of Gordon or Marco's standing, he has occasionally clashed with other superchefs. A few years back, he laid into Jamie Oliver, describing his shows as "too flash," and adding loftily: "He has turned himself into a star."

* The actress Ashley Jensen - comely star of Ricky Gervais' Extras - achieved something of a fairy-tale before Christmas, winning a brace of prizes at the prestigious British Comedy Awards.

A month down the line, Pandora asked what had become of her gongs, which are very much the industry's "Oscars."

"Actually, I haven't got them," she replied. "It's not that I've lost them; the fact is that I never actually took the things home.

"As soon as I came off stage, someone grabbed them from me, and I haven't seen them since. At the moment it's making me think the whole thing was just a dream."

Yesterday, organisers launched a search for the trophies. "We think they're being engraved, but aren't sure," I'm told.

* David Cameron is playing the celebrity card in his bid to put more female bottoms on the Conservative benches.

He has just appointed one Shireen Ritchie - Madonna's mother-in-law - to head up the party's candidates' board, which is in charge of vetting prospective MPs.

It's a signal move, since Ritchie, a Tory councillor in Kensington & Chelsea, has recently been a stern and vocal critic of the party's failure to promote female talent.

"She replaces someone called Simon Mort, who was seen as more of a traditionalist," I'm told. "I suppose you can put it down as yet another blow for the blazer and blue rinse brigade."

* Rob Brydon is one of the most famous divorcees in show-business, but that hasn't undermined his faith in the institution of marriage.

The comedian, who is best known as the lonely minicab driver Keith Barret in Marion and Geoff - a show inspired by the breakdown of his own marriage - has just gained a real-life fiancée.

She is Clare Holland, a researcher on The South Bank Show with whom he's been stepping out these past two years.

"Rob got down on bended knee on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town on New Year's Eve," she reports. "It was obviously extremely romantic."

Off the screen, Brydon already looks like splendid husband material: on Monday, he invited his future in-laws to the premiere of his new film, A Cock and Bull Story.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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