Tories copy Blair-Brown row with their own high-level spat

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* Michael Howard is always accusing Tony Blair of stealing his policies. Now here's evidence that the Tories are taking a leaf out of Labour's book. For, mirroring the unseemly squabble between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor, a feud has developed between Howard and the shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, right.

* Michael Howard is always accusing Tony Blair of stealing his policies. Now here's evidence that the Tories are taking a leaf out of Labour's book. For, mirroring the unseemly squabble between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor, a feud has developed between Howard and the shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, right.

Davis - whose designs on the Tory leadership are well documented - is said to be "hopping mad" at a newly-published article in The Spectator, believed to have been written with the co-operation of colleagues close to Howard. Condemning his recent performance on the shadow front bench, the piece controversially suggests that it might be a deliberate ploy to undermine his party leader. Its appearance has prompted Davis to institute a witch-hunt at Tory Central Office.

"He's out to get the people responsible for this, and is blaming those around Howard," says my mole. "Like Blair and Brown, their rival flunkies are causing most of the trouble. There's now a lot of suspicion between the camps. Davis believes he could have ensured David Blunkett's resignation sooner, if he hadn't been held back by the leadership."

The row also has an Alan Milburn figure: Davis's camp is suggesting the Spectator article is part of an attempt to promote the Tories' election supremo, David Cameron, as Howard's preferred successor. But Davis isn't giving up.

"He sees this as an act of desperation," adds my source. "And firmly believes he'll be leader by later this year."

* OLIVER STONE is joining the queue of Hollywood big-hitters who are - presumably - queuing up at Los Angeles airport for flights to Europe.

First, Robert Redford announced that he wants to move to Ireland; then Dustin Hoffman said he plans to live in London. Now, Stone, whose mother is French, tells me he intends to spend more time in her native land. Partly motivated by the bad reviews that greeted Alexander , the director says he feels he is increasingly out of kilter with the US movie business.

"Since the Castro movie I did, things have been tough. Everyone was against it," he says, of his documentary on the Cuban president that was never shown by the cable channel HBO, which bought it.

"Then I put my heart into Alexander , which wasn't appreciated either. The right thing is for me to stay out of America for a while. I'm planning to spend a lot more time in France."

* The new edition of Country Life magazine is published today - and the time-honoured "Girl in Pearls" slot is filled by an unusually glamorous filly: the transatlantic model, Lisa B.

But Lisa who recently married property millionaire Anton Bilton, might regret her decision to appear in the mag if she stops to consider its politics. CL - unsurprisingly enough - is proudly in favour of hunting. She, on the other hand, is rather fond of animals.

A couple of years ago, when modelling at the annual Game Conservancy Ball, she fled the stage in hysterics when she realised that the charity was "pro". She has also put her name to several animal rights campaigns.

"We didn't discuss the issue with her," explains a spokesman for the magazine.

* NEWS OF a political power to rival George Galloway's Respect for the smallest share of the vote at the next election. Robert Kilroy-Silk - having resigned the UKIP whip in the European Parliament - is preparing to launch his own party.

The former daytime television presenter has confirmed he will stand at the next general election, and speculation is mounting over the name of his new party, tipped to be unveiled as early as next week.

"The announcement is imminent," insists a well-placed source. "There was a feeling that he might do it tomorrow, as that would overshadow UKIP's candidates' weekend in Exeter, but it's now felt he may leave it until next week."

So, what will be the name for Kilroy's brainchild? Among the rumoured contenders is Veritas - the Latin, of course, for "truth". Surely a man as humble as Kilroy would never dream of opting for something so pretentious?

* All kettles were recently removed from MPs' offices because - apparently - they posed a health and safety risk. Now they have been replaced by wall-mounted hot water boilers. These, however, have been found perilous by some of the more traditional MPs, and Anthony Steen, the Conservative member for Totnes, tabled a question in the House asking for rubber gloves to be provided to protect his hands.

"It is not considered practical to issue rubber gloves," replied Sir Archy Kirkwood, the chairman of the Administration Committee. "But the option of new cool-touch taps is being investigated."

Mr Steen's other plan - to buy himself a kettle - was also thwarted. "I can now only have a kettle in my office if I go on a course and learn how to use it," he said.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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