Unholy row erupts between Springer and 'Springer'

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Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, the comedians behind the hit show, have gone on the offensive over Springer's decisian to withdraw support for the project during a campaign by the religious pressure group, Christian Voice.

Despite having appeared on stage at the opening night of the show's West End run, Springer later said that he believed its contents to be blasphemous. In his new show at the Edinburgh Festival, Lee describes this as an act of treachery.

"Springer came to the opening night and said it was so good he wished he'd written it," says Lee. "Two-faced wanker. He somewhat shifted his opinion after the controversy.

"He called me a neo-nazi apologist. Only his change of mind happened behind closed doors, so no one knew about it - until now."

It turns out that Lee and Thomas met Springer for dinner at The Ivy and discussed the show in some depth, even agreeing to pull some of its more controversial contents.

However, they were unable to prevent him withdrawing support.

"During that meal, he suddenly turned," explains Thomas. "We think he was looking at trying to restart a political career at this point."

Jerry Springer: the Opera is unlikely to be performed in the UK again. Springer himself was unavailable for comment yesterday.

* To the surprise of cynics, Nick Moran received splendid reviews for Telstar, his first foray into the noble art of playwriting.

Strange, then, that just five weeks after it hit the West End, the "Britpack" actor should be deeply unhappy with the harsh realities of London theatre.

"Would I write another play? The short answer's no," he said, at a fundraiser for the Teenage Cancer Trust. "Not after this one. It's been a nightmare."

It turns out that, despite good notices, the show - about the music producer Joe Meek - has struggled to attract full houses.

Moran and his fellow backers are taking a hit in the pocket.

"The West End stinks," he adds. "Putting on theatre at the Donmar or National is one thing, but out here it's a joke. You end up dealing with some of the most crooked people I've ever met.

"It's a rotten industry, so no, I won't be writing another play for a very long time."

* Strange this, but George Galloway appears to have delivered an unpatriotic snub to his own publishing house.

The cigar-chomping Respect MP has finished a memoir of his appearance before the US Senate, but - despite having founded his own publishing firm, Friction, for this purpose - won't be releasing it in the UK.

Instead, you'll have to travel to the US to buy the book. "The subject has been pretty much covered here already," says Galloway by way of explanation.

"Much of it was covered in my other book, Not the Only One, which is out in the UK. But in America, because of the nature of their media, my Senate appearance went largely unreported, so there's plenty left to be said to that market."

Apropos of the health of Friction, Galloway adds: "I don't know about going strong, but it's still going."

* The royal biographer Anthony Holden is dipping a stockinged toe into the populist waters of reality TV.

He's in talks with Peter Bazalgette - the boss of Endemol, the firm that makes Big Brother - to make a fly-on-the-wall show in which a group of celebrities spends several weeks playing poker.

"It'll be set in a country house, and will involve a few well-known card players taking part," Holden told me at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

"I recently played against Jimmy White, Michael Greco and Teddy Sheringham."

In a further bid to cash in on the current poker boom, Big Deal - Holden's memoir of a year as a professional player - is to be made into a film by his son, Ben.

* The Booker Prize long-list was only announced last week, yet Pandora has already been tickled by not one but two pieces of related bitching.

On Wednesday, Nicholas Moseley took a pop at two fancied novelists - Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes. Now another writer, the biographer Andrew Lycett, is getting in on the act.

Lycett is preparing a meaty biography of Arthur Conan Doyle for Weidenfeld and Nicholson, and reckons Julian Barnes's long-listed novel - a fictional representation of the Sherlock Holmes author - has stolen his thunder.

"Barnes has written a perfectly good book, but it's no feat of imagination," Lycett tells me. "In fact, it's a bit worrying for me that his supposed novel is actually so entirely biographical."

There's plenty of time for more highbrow bad-mouthing: the winner of the Booker isn't announced until 10 October.

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