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The Scurra.

TONY Blair is struggling to cope with a series of crises from the looming war with Iraq, the fire dispute and a student rebellion over fees. And now I can reveal news of another setback.

One of Labour's staunchest and more loyal constituencies has turned its back on him. The man who was voted Hero of the Year by the readers of gay magazine, Boyz, following his 1997 election victory, has just been voted Villain of the Year.

"He has alienated the gay community with his foot-dragging and fudges on gay human rights," says gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. "There is widespread anger at the way the government has vetoed gay equality on 13 occasions since it came to power in 1997.

"Blair and his ministers have blocked equality for gays on a wide range of issues, including action on homophobic hate crimes, employment, pension rights and protection against discrimination."

Blair can take some solace from the fact that Michael Barrymore beat him to top spot in a similar survey by another gay title, NOW UK. But while Blair was placed third, he still came above Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

AGEING Hollywood wildman Jack Nicholson has a novel way of promoting his movies.

Two tourists, pondering which film to see at a cinema complex in Los Angeles, were approached by a helpful stranger who said, "I hear About Schmidt is good."

When they asked the tipster how he knew, he replied, "I don't, I just like the actor in it. I forget his name but I hear he's not half bad."

With that, the 60-something man bought a ticket to see Pinocchio and was gone. Maybe he had already seen it, since the couple, though they failed to realise it, had been chatting with the film's leading man - Jack Nicholson.

FORMER president Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew have graduated from being acquaintances to bosom pals, I hear.

The first recorded sighting of the unlikely duo was at Mayfair restaurant Cecconi's last October, when the dopey royal was Clinton's guest at a dinner that also included film star Kevin Spacey. The pair bumped into each other again at the NSPCC's Amulet Winter Ball in December.

Both men are friends of Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late multimillionaire publisher, Robert Maxwell, and now they have taken to hitting the town together and went carousing on Saturday night.

ACTRESS turned politician Glenda Jackson may have seen better days but Preston MP Mark Hendrick must learn to be more chivalrous.

At one point during the defence debate last week, he stood up and said: "Will the honourable gentleman give way?"

To which Jackson replied - for it was she - "I beg my honourable friend's pardon. He cannot recognise men from women."

CONGRATULATIONS to Andre Agassi on his victory in the Australian Open at the age of 32. I predicted last week that if he won he'd attempt to lure wife Steffi Graf out of retirement so they could compete in the French Open's mixed doubles. Watch this space.

THE United Nations has confirmed that one Iraqi scientist has finally consented to be interviewed in absolute privacy and isolation. We now predict that he'll be quizzed by Mel and Sue on tomorrow's C4 breakfast show RI:SE.


ADVICE: Jack; GENDER: Glenda
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 27, 2003
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