Security shambles casts a cloud over Tory conference

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The Independent Online

* Before a handy photo-opportunity or a slick soundbite has been coined, an embarrassing security cock-up has occurred before David Cameron's first autumn conference as Tory leader.

I hear that senior members of the Shadow Cabinet, including William Hague, pictured, are yet to be issued with their security passes for next week's event in Bournemouth, after representatives of Dorset police failed to process the information in time for conference organisers.

Senior MPs are said to be blowing smoke over the mix-up, particularly as some have been informed they will be expected to arrive early on the South Coast on Sunday to pick up their required identification.

"In truth, the whole thing looks like a bit of a shambles," says a Shadow Cabinet source. "This is our most important conference in recent memory and here we are hardly getting off to the brightest of starts.

"Things certainly don't seem as organised as normal. To have not ensured by now that members of the Shadow Cabinet have security passes for their own party conference goes beyond the realms of incompetence."

Party organisers have apparently been at loggerheads with police officials about the matter all week.

"We have a very close working relationship with the organisers of the Conservative Party Conference," says a spokesman for Dorset Police.

"But it would be wholly inappropriate to comment on security matters."

* Kevin Spacey extended an upturned digit to his detractors this week when his new play at the Old Vic, A Moon for the Misbegotten, received rapturous reviews.

But the opening night didn't pass entirely without embarrassment. During Spacey's speech at the after-show party on Wednesday, the Hollywood star was stood up by the play's director, Howard Davies.

"I'd like to mention to all of you one of the most wonderful, amazing people around, and that's our director Howard Davies," Spacey gushed."Come on, Howard, where are you?"

After a brief silence, a nervous member of the crew piped up that Davies had been too tired to attend and had scarpered off home to bed. To which Spacey bellowed: "Oh. Well, fuck you, Howard!"

Says one guest: "It was very funny. It could have been awkward but Kevin pulled it out of the fire."

* As someone who once reportedly spent a staggering £20,000 to fix his teeth, Martin Amis is clearly a man who takes himself very seriously.

Yesterday, the modish author took the outlandishly snobbish step in banning all gossip columnists to last night's launch of his new book, House of Meetings.

Press officers at Amis's publisher, Cape, were under strict instructions to allow entry only to Fleet Street's leather-elbowed gang of literary editors at the lavish bash.

"I'm very sorry, there are no diarists allowed under any circumstances," says a spokesman when I call. "It's a request from Martin himself. I'm afraid he didn't give a reason."

* Tom Cruise made an unexpected appearance at this week's Labour Party conference at Manchester's G-Mex centre.

Delegates were alarmed when one stall inside the arena had a plasma screen stuck on the wall which was broadcasting a speech by Cruise on self-improvement.

"For a minute there, some of us thought it was a live feed of Cruise speaking at a nearby fringe meeting," I'm told.

Fortunately, the Cruise was just being used to promote an organisation called the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), which is apparently linked to the diminutive A-lister's beloved Church of Sciento logy.

* In the past, Peter Tatchell has confronted "iron" Mike Tyson and received a severe beating from Robert Mugabe's henchmen - all in the name of gay rights. Now he runs the risk of the notorious "hairdryer" treatment at the hands of the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Tatchell's latest complaint is against pint-sized footballer and Man U star Paul Scholes. According to Tatchell's human rights group, Outrage!, Scholes labelled a referee a "poof" during a recent match, and are now urging him to take time out from football to attend a course adressing the hurt caused by homophobia. "It might help him understand and appreciate gay issues if he visited Manchester's Lesbian & Gay Foundation," reads a press release.