Diary: Beware the Trojan panda, Nick
Wednesday 26 January 2011
The Chinese state can be devilishly ingenious. Consider, if you will, giant pandas: the world's most effective sleeper agents. As the latest issue of Prospect points out, Nixon was presented with a pair of pandas on his 1972 visit to China; just four months later his cronies broke into Democrat headquarters at the Watergate. Later that year, Japanese PM Kakuei Tanaka took delivery of the deceptively cuddly Lan Lan and Kang Kang; he was soon ousted, and embroiled in a bribery scandal. Ted Heath, too, was given a pair of bears mere months before yielding No 10 to Harold Wilson. In 2000, the outgoing Clinton-Gore administration accepted pandas in recognition of years of careful diplomacy with the Chinese. A week later, Gore conceded the presidential election to Bush. And who signed for the UK's new pair of pandas this month? None other than Nick "29 Shags" Clegg. Canny one, that Cameron.
* The press has certainly been gallant in defence of Sian Massey's honour, but Andy Gray's least-favourite linesperson will probably be less than grateful to hear that hacks from certain red-tops have been busy trying to track down her ex-boyfriends – offering, I'm told, hefty cash incentives in return for "raunchy shots" of the 25-year-old. The game, as they say, has gone mad.
* Sadly, the treatment for my sitcom Anyone But Lembit (in which Lembit Opik plays himself failing to persuade the Lib Dems to let him run for Mayor) never gained traction in the commissioning departments of BBCs 1 to 4, ITV2, Channel 4, Five or Dave. But a new project beckons, inspired by the newly Oscar-nominated The King's Speech, and the fashionability of parliamentary films (viz Meryl Streep's Thatcher movie): a joint biopic of the Chancellor and his shadow, provisionally entitled A Cock And Balls. It tells the story of two posh young chaps, both hampered by embarrassing names – Gideon and Balls – and by their speech impediments. Ed Balls recently admitted he's a stammerer, while George (né Gideon) Osborne employed a Harley Street vocal coach to help him stop squeaking. Both overcome their afflictions to become the most powerful, ruthless and unpopular men in their respective political parties. Casting suggestions welcome: I'd like to get Alan Cumming and Philip Seymour Hoffman, but David Walliams and Steve McFadden would do. Lembit may merit a cameo.
* The presidency of the Oxford Union is a coveted post, previously held by three prime ministers of the UK and one of Pakistan. But I hear the incumbent has aspirations to outdo even his famed forebears: since assuming the role this term, James Langman has beefed up his staff of eager students, giving them such grand titles as "Director of Strategy", "President's Counsel" and "Chief of Staff". (This on top of the 34 elected officials who already run the, er, student society). A comely first-year has even been named "President's PA". I'd insert a snide joke, but it seems unwise to make an enemy of one so clearly destined for greatness.
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