Diary

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Memo to all MPs: although the sounding of the parliamentary division bell means that you have a mere eight minutes to haul yourselves out of the pubs to present yourself in the House to vote, it does not enable you to break the Highway Code. One of you, at least, is unaware of this.

On Tuesday night my husband and I had stopped at the red traffic lights at the junction of Whitehall and Parliament Square. In front we noticed a sudden flurry of MPs and political hacks running across the road - a signal the division bell had rung. Suddenly a car pulled up behind us, flashing its lights. We turned round and recognised the minister in the passenger seat, who was looking straight at us, po-faced. Cursing, my husband edged our car out of the way. The ministerial car gaily sailed through the red light, creating havoc with the stream of moving cars whose right of way it was.

Subsequently, I have made it my mission to find out whether this minister's actions were legal. Answer, collectively from Scotland Yard, 10 Downing Street, the Department of Transport, the Cabinet Office and from the Palace of Westminster: "Absolutely no." "Only," says 10 Downing Street, "when a police escort is provided may a head of state, or a senior politician drive outside normal traffic regulations." All that now remains is for me to send a copy of this memo to the law-breaking politician himself: prepare yourself, dear Chancellor, for a nasty shock.

Rather like the way people now stop the actor Colin Firth in the street, gushing "Mr Darcy, Mr Darcy", so the actor Edward Petherbridge tells me he has found himself invited to 10 Downing Street purely on the strength of his portrayal of Lord Peter Wimsey in the BBC television series based on the books by Dorothy L Sayers. Petherbridge, whom I encountered at last week's launch of The Letters of Dorothy L Sayers (1899-1936: The Making of a Detective Novelist), edited by Barbara Reynolds, was terrifically flattered when first he received the party invitation last year. "I had never met the PM or his wife," he explains, "but Norma is a member of the Dorothy L Sayers society and is therefore a fan of the series."

But the party did not run entirely as the hosts would wish. A man standing near Petherbridge kept pointing to a bust on the mantelpiece, enunciating loudly: "This bust belongs to my establishment. When there is a new prime minister we will take it back, so we're expecting it back any moment."

A friend on another broadsheet wrote a piece about the homeless recently and afterwards received a call from a reader. "My husband and I recognise the chap in the photograph," she said. "He was in the Coldstream guards." "Yes, yes," said my friend, wondering where this was leading. "Thing is," said the reader "we'd like a butler." "Oh," replied my friend, sitting upright. "Do you," said the reader, "have his number?"

The church's most controversial figure, the Rt Rev David Jenkins, the former Bishop of Durham, has been sparking controversy again. At a conference held last week in St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, organised by the Anglican chaplaincy to the universities, Dr Jenkins publicly supported the principle of outing. Speaking alongside Peter Tatchell, leader of OutRage!, the gay lobbyists, he said that in cases of hypocrisy "outing was a perfectly reasonable and understandable tactic ... people cannot expect to have their privacy respected if they invade the privacy of others." He added that OutRage!, which recently came under criticism for attempting to out the Bishop of London, who, in the event chose to declare his sexuality a "grey area" anyway, "had done an awful lot of good. The enforced hypocrisy about sexuality is one of the most worrying things in the church."

Needless to say Bishop Jenkins, whose speech was met with gasps, is unlikely to find supporters in the church. Whilst the Archdeacon of York commented "the name OutRage! speaks for itself - it is outrageous", the Chaplain to the Bishop of Chester refrained from putting the issue to the bishop himself. "The bishop," he said, "has just had surgery. Somehow I doubt this will speed his recovery."

Waiters at a certain expensive seafood restaurant in Geneva are still recovering from the unprecedented actions in their premises last week of the former Communards singer and Ian Hislop lookalike Jimmy Somerville. Somerville, who is a lapsed vegetarian, strode in and was apparently appalled by the sight of 12 lobsters sitting in a tank, waiting to be conked on the shell, boiled and devoured by any customer who so wished. "I will pay for all 12," Somerville told the waiter, who looked taken aback, "but I do not want to eat them, I want you to take them to the lake and set them free." In vain, the waiters argued. Somerville was resolute. At a cost of over pounds 1,000 he insisted that the lobsters be set free instantly. He accompanied the waiter and the lobsters to the lake. Whoosh! In they went and, alas, died instantly. Too late Mr Somerville and the waiters realised that they had overlooked one significant factor in their efforts to save the lobsters: the water in the lake was fresh.

Scottish politics, normally so gentlemanly, is getting rather acrimonious in North East Fife. Adam Bruce, the constituency's Tory prospective parliamentary candidate, last week published an open letter in the Scottish press to Menzies Campbell, the sitting Lib Dem MP, challenging him to clarify his position on lottery scratchcards, on account of the British Legion's current use of them to boost funds. Bruce claims the Liberal Democrats called lottery scratchcards "evil and addictive" and asks Campbell if "the public should be discouraged from supporting the British Legion's campaign". Campbell has replied publicly saying that the Lib Dems never said scratchcards were "evil and addictive" and the British Legion needs to raise more funds precisely because the lottery has denied its habitual supply. Privately he is less equanimous: "It's a damn stupid letter," he fumed from Westminster.

My spies in Scotland, however, have explained the real reason behind this petty war. Bruce and Campbell go back a long way. Their families are great friends. But at a political function recently Campbell, 54, caused Bruce, 29, huge embarrassment. "Ooh Adam," jibed Campbell in front of everybody: "Last time I saw you, you were in short trousers."

Comments