'Soon you'll be in the BNP' - Ken's jibe at race chief

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The Independent Online

* Like a pair of strutting cockerels, Ken Livingstone and Trevor Phillips have discarded their unofficial summer-long truce and launched themselves at one another, feathers filling the air.

Earlier this week, Phillips criticised the Notting Hill Carnival, labeling it "domestic tourism" and no more multicultural than "a day's Morris dancing or caber-tossing".

Even by Livingstone's standards, his retaliation yesterday was strident - accusing the Commission for Racial Equality's chairman of "pandering to the right" so much that "he'll soon be joining the BNP". He added that Phillips, who has warned of increasing racial segregation, had "an absolutely disgraceful record" at the CRE, which he had "turned into a vast press department".

"I don't know where Trevor is going," said Livingstone, pictured left. "I remember during the first mayoral election, when I was running for mayor, he denounced me for being a racist because I asked him 'Do you want to be my deputy?'

"He donned a brief black power thing and ever since then he's gone so far over to the other side I suspect he'll soon be joining the BNP."

Livingstone's comments - made during a live phone-in on Vanessa Feltz's show for BBC Radio London - are bound to cause further bad blood between the pair who first fell out in 2000, over Phillips's support for Frank Dobson's failed mayoral bid.

"Obviously the mayor is entitled to his opinions," said a spokeswoman for Phillips.

* Ringo Starr's wife, Barbara Bach, had a pretty awful bank holiday, spending it in A&E at Royal Surrey County Hospital after one of her horses kicked and broke her leg.

The drummer's reputation as the most gentlemanly Beatle is reinforced by the attention his former Bond girl spouse has received.

Says my spy in the waiting room: "Ringo parked his SUV outside A&E one morning. A caravan of sunglass-wearing wideboys passed by, their arms heaped with boxes and glossy boutique bags.

"One of the heavies was carrying two large, framed watercolours which were obviously to decorate her room.

"The only odd thing was that the paintings seemed to depict stampeding horses. I hope she appreciates the irony."

I'm delighted to report that Bach, pictured with Ringo, has now checked out and is recuperating at home.

* The novelist Alexander McCall Smith, criticised by human rights campaigners on this page last week for failing to highlight the plight of Botswana's Kalahari Bushmen, tells me the film adaptation of his book No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency has received the go-ahead.

"They tell me it is finally in motion, he says. "Anthony Minghella is directing and Richard Curtis is on board as well. Harvey Weinstein owns the rights."

McCall Smith "confidently expects" an approach from the Irish government to shoot the movie there - despite the book being set in Botswana. "I don't think that would work," he says.

As for casting Precious Ramotswe, the rotund heroine, "They will have to find a Botswanan lady of ample girth. I shall insist."

* Yesterday Pandora reported that maturing Yorkshire MPs anticipate a visit from "Gordon Brown's people" suggesting they step aside and let protégé Ed Balls, tipped to be Chancellor, run in their place. (Balls's Normanton seat is to be abolished.)

"Any MP who goes will expect a peerage," says a Labour source. A Labour MP also calls to remind me of the fate of Normanton's former parliamentarian, William O'Brien, 77, who retired last year to make way for Balls.

"Bill was supposed to be going to the Lords," the MP tells me. "But I haven't noticed him there yet."

A friend of O'Brien says: "He hoped for a peerage but they didn't need to give him one because of his age."

Labour politicians, be warned!

* The literary world can be a barbarous one. Nevertheless, shoppers in a London branch of Waterstone's were not expecting two young wolves to wander between the discounted paperbacks on Wednesday afternoon.

As publicity stunts go, this seemed a corker: children's author Michelle Paver was signing copies of her latest book Soul Eater (featuring a wolf talking to a child). The wolves diverged from the publicists' plans, however, leaping on chairs and windowsills, chewing books and fouling the carpet.

"They were, err, a bit gleeful," says Paver's publisher, explaining that they got the wolves from Reading. "It's not advisable to walk them down Oxford Street so we took them to the loading bay in a van. Anyone who came into contact with them had to sign a disclaimer. It was all under control."