Stand by for Friction: Galloway takes on the publishing world

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The Independent Online

* George Galloway hasn't just resurrected his political career in recent weeks, he's also been expanding his burgeoning business empire.

* George Galloway hasn't just resurrected his political career in recent weeks, he's also been expanding his burgeoning business empire.

Having won the battle of Bethnal Green, the cigar-chomping Respect MP is about to start his own publishing company. Perhaps aptly, it's called Friction, and will be launched at the House of Commons on 25 May.

Galloway's firm has been set up in partnership with the journalist Ron McKay, and will produce an eclectic mixture of fiction and non-fiction books with just one thing in common: they will all "cause controversy".

The first title to hit the shelves will a Mexican thriller by Paco Taibo, called An Easy Thing, followed by Gorgeous George's own memoirs later this year. That book should lift the lid on New Labour's "dirty tricks", Galloway's coming divorce, and his recent victory over Oona King.

Speaking from his Portuguese villa, where he is recuperating before taking up his seat at Westminster, Galloway explains: "Ron McKay and I have been partners in publishing ventures for a very long time.

"We started the Dundee Standard together in the late 1970s, so the whole thing is very exciting.

"The idea of Friction is that it's going to be highly charged: books that are really controversial, that really burn."

As for his decision to launch the venture at the Commons, he adds: "I've booked a function room at the Commons - and paid for it. There's no scandal there."

* When Gordon Ramsay last made a TV series, he was involved in a "shoving match" with a contestant on Hell's Kitchen, costing Granada £67,000 in damages.

He's about to sail close to the wind once more. For I gather that the new series of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares shows a vegetarian being secretly fed meat.

In the show, to be broadcast later this month, Ramsay invites a passer-by to sample pizza at La Lanterna, an Italian restaurant in Letchworth, Hertfordshire.

"The man says he's a vegetarian, and is told it's a tomato and mozarella pizza. But while he's eating it, his face goes blotchy," I'm told.

"Afterwards, it turns out that a chef's lined the pizza with parma ham."

Speaking at the Glenfiddich Food and Drink Awards on Monday, Ramsay confirmed the incident, but said: "It wasn't my fault."

That said, Ramsay has "form" for baiting veggies. A couple of years back, he joked about "secretly feeding chicken stock to vegans".

* Lordy! Toyah Willcox tells me she's about to go topless in front of the cameras at the age of 46.

It's a bold move for any heroine of the 1980s. But - unlike other celebrities of her vintage - Willcox is anxious to stress that she's not mutton dressed as lamb.

"I am having to do a topless scene soon, but I don't have a problem with it at all," she said, at the premiere of A Good Woman on Monday.

"In fact I think I might put on a few stone first, just to give the crew a treat."

"I'm actually making an effort to dress appropriately for my age at the moment," she adds, modestly.

"I put on a bikini for the first time in ages recently and thought: 'never again'."

* Retired punk rocker Jimmy Pursey - the former singer from Sham 69 - wound back the years at the opening of the Hed gallery in Brighton on Friday.

Currently working as an artist, Pursey was asked to submit some paintings for the new gallery's inaugural show. Unfortunately, the curator decided against including all of them in the final exhibition.

"Jimmy burst into the drinks party we were holding, dressed head to toe in denim, and told us he was very upset," says the gallery.

"He shouted: 'I spent months painting these. If you're not showing all of them, you can't fucking have any of them.'

"Then he ripped his paintings off the wall and marched out with them under one arm. It's the talk of the local art scene."

* Here's an unlikely pop debut: the rustic TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has been signed up by Universal records. This summer, he'll release his first album, Let it Grow.

The CD, a compilation of HF-W's favourite tracks, will lay bare the River Cottage tycoon's - ahem - eclectic taste in music.

"I must admit to a bad habit of listening to Planet Rock on my digital radio," he admits. "This collection will be the sort of thing you'd enjoy if you're driving across the countryside watching cows. There's a synergy to rural things that is almost musical, and I want it to reflect that."

By way of a further selling point, Fearnley-Whittingstall reckons the fundraising CD - in aid of Care International and Rural Revival - can increase the milk yield of dairy cows. "Birdsong gets them going, after all," he says.