Diary: A bottomless well of good taste

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The Independent Online

Not a moment too soon, Debrett's has published its definitive guide to the royal wedding, A Modern Royal Marriage, which boasts a foreword by (who else?) Julian Fellowes: "It was hard not to sense that, on that special wedding day, we plighted our troth with the young couple..." and so on.

As ever, this column felt compelled to turn to the passage concerning Pippa Middleton, for which the Debrett's etiquette experts have excelled themselves. Tabloid editors, take note! It is possible to compose whole paragraphs about Pippa without once resorting to the word "arse": "Vivacious Pippa Middleton offered sterling support to her sister," the author solemnly recalls. "Many onlookers were wonderstruck by Pippa's own slinky, ivory crepe gown with its revealing cowl neckline and teasing line of buttons down the back. By the day's end Twitter was heaving with tributes to the 'foxy' Pippa and five Facebook pages had been set up that were dedicated to her elegant figure." Bravo!

* Sadly I was unable to join Hugh Grant at last week's Alfred Dunhill Links Pro-Am golf tournament at St Andrew's (some of us have to work, you know), but it seems my absence may have been a lucky escape. For Hugh's mildly ungentlemanly behaviour has seen him barred from one of the town's top restaurants. The Seafood, an establishment located within putting distance of the Old Course, fed and watered such celebrities as Michael Douglas and Johan Cruyff during the tournament, but its owner, Tim Butler, told the Sunday Post he'd banned the star of Nine Months and Extreme Measures for being "a very naughty boy". Apparently, claims Butler, "A reservation is a verbal contract [but Hugh] books tables in several restaurants and then decides which one to go to." The lovable rogue.



* For the first time in some years, conference season lacks a leadership challenge in any of the major parties. But according to The Clegg Coup, a study of the coalition by Jasper Gerard, such amusements may not be far ahead. A source tells the author that none other than the Defence Secretary, Liam "13th Century" Fox, "sees himself as the prince across the water". The unnamed Lib Dem minister claims Fox "thinks Cameron never faced a proper challenge for the leadership because he [Fox] was edged out in the first round by David Davis, whom he considers flaky... I do think he wants to challenge Cameron for the leadership." A wedge was driven further between Fox and Number 10 by the Libyan adventure, which was "very much a Downing Street/Foreign Office caper", the minister explains. "Everyone at the MoD, including Fox and the generals, were opposed." Either Fox's recent photo op with Mrs Thatcher was a genuine attempt to claim Tory hearts from Cameron, or Gerard's source doesn't much care for the Defence Secretary. Both scenarios are eminently plausible.

* BBC2 is showing a season of programmes about mixed race Britain, including Shirley, last week's Shirley Bassey biopic, and Mixed Britannia, a history of mixed-race life in the UK presented by auto-cutie George Alagiah. But who was responsible for selecting the soundtrack to the Mixed Race Season trailer, Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now"? Perhaps somebody noted that Freddie Mercury was Parsi, born in Zanzibar and brought up in India. But were they also aware that Queen (notoriously, at the time) broke the UN boycott on artists playing in South Africa, with a string of lucrative concerts at Sun City in the mid-1980s? The band was blacklisted by the UN, and became one of the main targets of Artists United Against Apartheid's "Sun City" single in 1985.



* No lawyer, I suspect, could have prevented the conviction of Christine Hemming, the cat-napping wife of MP John, caught on CCTV stealing her love rival's kitten. But the lawyer in question nonetheless deserves praise for his efforts. He is Gerry Bermingham, onetime Labour MP for St Helens, who surrendered his seat in 2001 to make way for the Tory defector Shaun Woodward. Bermingham was a barrister before entering Parliament, but was said to have been led to expect a seat in the Lords after he stood down. He was, friends intimated, rather put out when his name failed to appear on the 2001 dissolution honours list. Still, good to know his legal role gives him a chance to tackle the big issues.

highstreetken@independent.co.uk

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