Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary

There'll be fireworks...
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The Independent Online

He comes from a dynasty of political heavyweights, but Orlando Fraser is not finding his way into the House of Commons at all easy. After narrowly losing the key marginal seat of North Devon in the last election, the grandson of Lord Longford and stepson of Harold Pinter was thought to have become disillusioned with politics. But word reaches me he was among 200 applicants for the safe Conservative seat of Devizes, to be vacated by Michael Ancram at the next election. Alas, he has not made the shortlist, published last week. A friend of Cameron, he is a familiar face among Notting Hill Tories. His father was the late Sir Hugh Fraser, who had a distinguished career as Tory MP for Stafford. But his mother's father, Frank Pakenham, was the pioneering Labour peer and prison reformer, and his step-father Harold Pinter was also a lifelong Labour supporter. Although his impeccable toff credentials may not go down well with some at Tory Central Office, he has the advantage of not being another Old Etonian, having been to Ampleforth instead.

Only the best will do for expenses-deprived MPs. A new smoking shelter to be built at the House of Commons is forecast to cost an eye-watering £49,000, nearly twice as much as had been set aside. Last year it was decided a Puginesque shelter should be built between the Norman Shaw building and Portcullis House, as a mere timber and corrugated plastic hut would not be in keeping with the palatial surroundings. "It's going to be the Taj Mahal of all smoking shelters," said a member at the time, "and could be the country's first neo-Gothic smoking shelter." But costs have spiralled out of control: in the summer the total outlay was earmarked at £21,706, a remarkably precise figure, but a written answer in the House last week revealed the cost had now been set at £49,000. Because they're worth it?

Following my recent story about Bloomsbury publishing the memoirs of Precious Williams, who once found herself in hot water after falsely suggesting an intimacy with Jon Snow that never existed, a mischievous publishing insider comes up with an intriguing aside. "Remember J T Leroy," she whispers. Leroy was the young publishing sensation whose story of male prostitution and drug addiction in California gripped the world in 1999, but who later turned out to be the fictional creation of a woman called Laura Albert. Albert was later convicted of fraud, and it emerged that her publisher, Bloomsbury, had been one of her victims. Hope Blooms bury does its homework this time.

Is Charlie Brooker going soft? The acerbic Guardian columnist has revealed that he pulled a column that called a reality TV family "the shits" from his latest book because he thought it was "a bit unfair". Speaking at Waterstone's, Piccadilly, last week, Brooker also said he feels "really bad" about describing the philosopher Alain de Botton as "an absolute pair-of-aching-balls of a man – a slapheaded, ruby-lipped pop philosopher". First Jan Moir, now this. Will we have no ranters left?

German discount store Aldi has got into an unfortunate PR scrape after the manager of one of its stores refused to let a war veteran sell poppies in the branch. "I was furious," Major Alan Marsden, 88, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, told his local paper. "I wasn't even given a reason why." A spokesperson for Aldi said, "Requests to leave collection tins in store must be submitted on official headed paper from the relevant charity to avoid any fraudulent activity." Very wise.

So the London Film Festival has finished, and everyone agrees it was a corker. Better than ever before, some say. Maybe, but can its brilliance justify the eradication of all previous festivals from our memories? Apparently so, according to a closing press release: "London Film Festival audiences suppress previous years" screams the email subject header. These audiences, they've ganged up to keep the festival's history from future generations. The rotters. But then, another email: "LFF Press would like to recall the previous message", it says – those audiences weren't suppressing, they were surpassing. Oh.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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