Woolas dismisses young Muslim's views as 'crap'
Tuesday 29 August 2006
The Government reacts tetchily to suggestions that British foreign policy has anything to do with the rise in radicalism among young Muslims.
When Muslim leaders wrote an open letter a fortnight ago suggesting just that, Foreign Office minister Kim Howells and Home Secretary John Reid fell over one another to condemn the comments as "irrational" and " facile".
The Communities minister, Phil Woolas, has taken up the baton at Bolton Wanderers Football Club, dismissing a young Muslim woman's views as "a load of crap".
Woolas, launching the Government's "tackling extremism" roadshow, got into a heated 10-minute discussion with Komal Adris, 27, there on behalf of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee.
"I told him that foreign policy was a real concern of mine," explains Adris. "He suggested I had an extremist view and my concerns were illegitimate. I accused him of patronising me."
Civil servants tried to usher Woolas away - to no avail. The minister snapped: "That's a load of crap," before walking off.
I call the Department for Communities and Local Government, expecting a robust denial - but no. "Ministers can't win," says a spokeswoman. "They are criticised for not being straight-talking and there are those who frequently say far worse about government and politicians.
"This was a full and frank exchange - but that is a good thing, that is what genuine dialogue is about." Adris wants an apology.
Simon says that the joke's on you, Jimmy
Expect the Vatican to announce the Pope's conversion to Buddhism and bears to begin using public conveniences: Jimmy Carr has been silenced.
The comic has recently been derided by new kid on the circuit, Simon Amstell, incoming presenter of Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
Their paths crossed awkwardly last week. Amstell tells me after a stand-up gig: "Jimmy doesn't like me calling him a homophobe and a racist, or doing a joke about him being set on fire. Unfortunately, I tried it with other comedians' names and it didn't work.
"What can I say? Audiences like it."
Carr snacks on hecklers during shows like a troll on goats. Expecting a lethally deadpan riposte to Amstell's slur, I call him.
"Simon is a brilliant comic," he replies, "and if you dish it out, you've got to be able to take it."
But to take it lying down, Jimmy!
Neil keeps it all in check
Entering into correspondence with readers is a joy of the job, so I am delighted to hear that Neil and Christine Hamilton wrote Pandora into their Edinburgh show. Christine is "fuming" about my report of their champagne-charged midnight chat show, which featured ladyboys from Bangkok and men in skimpy red bondage attire whipping the former MP and his wife.
"The article in The Independent said we were merry - a terrible euphemism - when we'd hardly had a glass," raged Christine to audience members at the weekend. "That journalist obviously has no stamina himself."
Neil was then fitted with a kilt in Hamilton tartan, onstage. "Maybe I should take my pants off?" he suggested. "No!" the audience shrieked back.
Neil Hamilton wears navy check pants.
How ungrateful ex-employees can be. Tony Blair's former head of policy at Number 10, Geoff Mulgan, has fired an off-message salvo at Rupert Murdoch.
"How can the public engage with democracy when they have Murdoch et al feeding them lies?" he demands, lamenting the Australian media tycoon's "distorted" view of the world and the "malign power" he wields over New Labour.
Mulgan's public comments are increasingly unwelcome in Downing Street. Last year he described the relationship between Blair and Gordon Brown as " painful".
He criticised John Prescott during Croquetgate in May, and in June he praised David Cameron. Rats and sinking ships?
Sharp new way of taming hacks
News of an intriguing find amid the dusty artefacts uncovered when Lobby journalists were shunted from their old offices in the Palace of Westminster, to allow renovation.
No jokes about political columnists, thank you very much. The discovery is, in fact, a genuine Maori spear, donated to British hacks by the New Zealand press gallery some decades ago. "It is six feet long, beaded and bloody sharp, with a smiling face painted on the tip," I'm told.
MPs will be relieved to know the lance is now out of journos' hands, propped against the filing cabinet of Elizabeth Johnson, the Lobby administrator. "Elizabeth marched past wielding this thing like a woman on a mission," says an onlooker. "It was terrifying." A novel way of keeping errant scribes in check.
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