Diary

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Portillo facing the Twigg test

Michael Portillo, the Defence Secretary (below), is about to find his endorsement of the forces' ban on gay servicemen and women will come to haunt him in the next general election campaign. The Labour Party has selected Stephen Twigg, the chief whip on Islington council as its candidate to wrest Mr Portillo's 15,000 majority from him.

Mr Twigg has been a gay activist for some years, and tells me that while he will be campaigning on a mainstream Labour agenda, he will definitely be raising the forces ban on the hustings and challenging Mr Portillo to a face- to-face debate to discuss that and other equality issues. "I will be challenging him to support the principle of equality of opportunity and equality before the law," he said.

Mr Twigg's selection was welcomed by a gay activist Labour candidate of yesteryear, Peter Tatchell. He said: "It's marvellous that there's going to be at least one gay candidate fighting the Enfield Southgate constituency and pledged to fight for homosexual equality."

Pop go Paisley's chances of stardom

Those who recall Sir David Steel's pre 1983 election rap "I Feel Liberal" and Neil Kinnock's unforgettable appearance as Tracey Ullman's "My Guy" will be disappointed to learn that the Reverend Ian Paisley will not be joining the political pop hall of fame.

The cross-border Irish band The Wild Spirits wrote to Dr Paisley asking him to appear in their latest video and dangled various carrots in front of his nose: "It'll be a gas, we get to wear Doc Martens... and bomber jackets". The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party was also sent a list of forthcoming concert dates and offered the chance to "drop in and hoist up a few tall, cool ones and bang on the pipe". The response was uncharacteristically meek. "Dr Paisley said it was very nice of the people to consider him, but he didn't think it was appropriate.

It was an interesting concept, but there were a number of reasons why he couldn't take part," said his son, also called Ian.

Perhaps one reason was the title of the song - "Catholic West Belfast".

Thigh fidelity for Elton and Elvis

Watford football club's life president, Mr Elton John (right), should ask the club's lottery co-ordinator, Peter Storey, to bare his thigh for him. Though Mr Storey has been too shy to tell his boss, he has a tattoo of Elton on his thigh. I'd be tempted to say that greater love for Watford Football Club has no man, were it not for the fact that he has a tattoo of Elvis Presley on his other thigh.

Sense and insensibility

I was diverted from the tedium of a journey by public transport yesterday when two dishevelled looking chaps, more than a little the worse for wear, lurched on to the tube at Waterloo Station. "Great film," one of them slurred. "But it was nothing like the book. Bloody great that book. Why mess about with it?" The other one, whose shoes were tied up with string, shrugged and wiped his nose on his sleeve: "That bit, though..." His companion nodded sagely.

Ah, I thought. I know what they're talking about. Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh's study of urban decay and heroin misuse in the less picturesque parts of Edinburgh. A film that had drawn even two young men without a bootlace between them to the cinema. And "that bit", the toilet scene, when Renton literally goes swimming in the cistern of "the worst toilet in Scotland"...

The first chap took a swig from his can of lager. "Emma Thompson was good," he said, "but I wouldn't have done Willoughby like that, myself."

Why Sir Peter Hall needs attention

I notice a poster advertising a new production coming to the West End next month. It is a Feydeau comedy translated by Sir Peter Hall and his wife Nicki Frei and starring Felicity Kendal as a high-class Parisian whore. Is this by any chance related to another play, Emily Needs Attention, on at the Theatre Royal, Bath, the week before the West End opening? That is a Feydeau farce starring Felicity Kendal, etc etc. The publicist for Mind Millie For Me is lacrosse-playing Sharon Kean, who is also publicist for Emily Needs Attention. The two plays are, she agrees, one and the same. The original French title is Occupe-toi d'Amelie, and Sir Peter and Lady Hall translated it as Emily Needs Attention, only deciding that Mind Millie For Me was a truer translation after the Bath posters and programmes had been printed. Personally, I think their original translation was catchier. And there's still time to change it back and confuse theatregoers further.

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