Pandora: Murray finds outlet for memoirs, despite m'learned friends

By Henry Deedes
Wednesday 07 January 2009 01:00

Our former Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray is on the verge of celebrating a famous victory in the name of free speech.

The colourful diplomat, who resigned from his post in 2004 after clashes with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, looks to have finally found an outlet for his second memoir, The Road to Samarkand: The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts.

The tome was due to be published by Gordon Brown's publishers, Mainstream, in the early part of this year, but executives got cold feet when they found themselves bombarded with letters from m'learned friends at Schillings acting on behalf of Tim Spicer, a former Lieutenant-Colonel in the Scots Guards.

Spicer's objections were thought to involve Mr Murray's recounting of the time he told a parliamentary committee that he felt he'd been "set up" by Spicer, whom he found "extremely difficult to pin down and shifty".

Now, I gather, Murray is in talks with the Mail on Sunday about publishing extracts from the manuscript. According to sources, the paper's editors, subject to legal clearances, could well decide to run chunks of it this weekend. If so, it would be a remarkable irony in that the paper would be able to give the book a far wider audience than it would have probably otherwise received.

Mr Murray's first memoir, Murder in Samarkand, which the FCO attempted to censor, is also due a bigger hearing. It's about to be made into a movie by the director Michael Winterbottom, starring Steve Coogan.

Westwood's designs on Hollywood screenplay

When Vivienne Westwood sets her mind to something, she is in the habit of following through.

Not long ago, the grande dame of British fashion remarked that she had the perfect idea for a sequel to the Sex and the City movie – a revelation which, at the time, few assumed to be more than a throwaway comment.

However, it seems that Westwood was entirely serious about the offer. I hear that she has since been in contact with production staff, trying to pitch her storyline as the plot of the next film.

"She's been obsessed with the film ever since she saw it. One of her designs was used as the wedding dress," I'm told. "She has even put in calls to [the lead actress] Sarah Jessica Parker about it."

So far it's been a case of "don't call us, we'll call you" for the flame-haired designer.

"We haven't had any news about it yet," said a spokesman. "So we don't know what's happening."

Tatchell rides to Lohan's rescue

Lindsay Lohan has found an unlikely knight in shining armour in Peter Tatchell. The gay rights campaigner has launched an attack on the BBC for including the headline-prone actress, far right, and her partner, DJ Sam Ronson, on its recent programme The Most Annoying People of 2008. "I fail to see how Lohan or Ronson qualify as annoying, let along most annoying. What is annoying about this lovely couple?" he asks. "I know it was meant as a light-hearted review of the year, but even so the BBC did not offer an even half-way convincing reason to justify their inclusion in this programme, which at times bordered on lesbophobic. A public apology is due from the BBC." Also facing Tatchell's wrath is Radio Five Live presenter Spoony, who uncharitably implied that most lesbians were "munters and mingers".

Rourke's adrift

Mickey Rourke has laid into his contemporaries in Hollywood who reckon their haughty status gives them a unique insight into the way of the world. "Actors should shut up about politics," he tells Piers Morgan in this month's GQ. "They tend to be ill-informed finger-pointers who just cosy up to some flavour of-the-month liberal." All well and good, except some critics will doubtless suggest Rourke might want to heed his own advice. Since he donned a highly dubious Belfast accent in the 1987 turkey A Prayer for the Dying, he's proudly sported an IRA tattoo on his left arm.

Campbell helps Karen raise bucks

Gordon Brown might have put the dampeners on a snap election in June, but that hasn't stopped some of his panicky foot soldiers getting their own groundwork in early. The Labour backbencher Karen Buck sent out invites yesterday to a fund-raising dinner in an attempt to stock up her war chest to fight her marginal north Westminster seat at the next election. The former transport minister, who made waves three years ago when she withdrew her son from one of Tony Blair's treasured city academies, branding it "appalling", is clearly pulling out all the stops. The highlight of the evening is a speech by one Alastair Campbell. Buck has cause to be nervous. The Tories have put up a suitably photogenic blonde called Joanne Cash in a bid to oust her.

'Gobby' Healey puts a sock in it

Austin Healey's habit of speaking a little too frankly during his chequered rugby career led to him being garnered with the disparaging sobriquet "Mr Gobby". Still, a leopard can change its spots. According to Healey, he's now a much calmer figure, a development he attributes to his recent appearance on the light entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing. "I'm a lot a softer as a person and easier to get on with now," he tells Closer magazine. "I had a lot of barriers before and I wouldn't let people talk to me. I shut them out or intimidated them, but I don't feel I need to do that any more."

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