Diary: Bishop makes his point – without a red-hot poker

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The Independent Online

The real-life Bishop of Bath and Wells was more polite than his fictional counterpart from the 1980s comedy series Blackadder, who brandished a red-hot poker and announced: "I'll make your bottom wish it had never been born." But he got his point across all the same during a brief exchange in the Lords about the decision to impose VAT on alterations to listed buildings.

Church leaders met Treasury ministers on Monday and got them to agree to put more money into the fund that compensates places of worship which are hit by VAT. Gently, the Bishop pointed out, it is a funny old government that promotes the "Big Society" but when churches make the necessary alterations to open the buildings up for the community, they have to pay VAT then reclaim it from a fund in which, as the Treasury now admits, there is not enough money to cover every claim.

The blagger just can't help it

Paul McMullan, the former News of the World journalist who told the Leveson Inquiry that "privacy is for paedos" has been spotted back at the inquiry, sitting quietly in the public gallery listening. Did he really wait for hours in the long queue with other members of the public, a colleague asked. "Nah, I blagged my way in," he replied. You can take the man out of the tabloid....

Hey Jo, don't talk down our town

The problem with edgy humour is that there us always someone out there ready to take offence. Jo Brand is in trouble for an off-the-cuff remark she made on Have I Got News For You when someone mentioned Streatham, south London. Ms Brand, who lives quite close by, replied: "It's a s**thole. Don't go there."

This provoked a 300-word letter of complaint from Angelina Purcell, whose job is managing Streatham town centre and trying to shake off the reputation that clings to the area from the days when Cynthia Payne ran her famous brothel where men could pay with luncheon vouchers. "You've made my job ten times harder," Ms Purcell complained.

Murdoch, master of ministers, slips up

Hearing Rupert Murdoch yesterday modestly disclaiming that he has any influence over politicians would have come as a surprise to John D'Arcy, who, as finance director of the Herald and Weekly Times, in Melbourne, Australia, led the fight against Murdoch's takeover bid in 1979. On page 142 of his book 'Media Mayhem – Playing with the big boys in Media', Mr D'Arcy commented: "One of Murdoch's greatest assets is his ability to manipulate and manage governments." Two pages further in, referring to the 1985 merger of the Coles supermarket chain and the Myers retail group, D'Arcy added: "I recall he said, and I quote: 'We should never have allowed the Government to permit Coles and Myer to merge. We have now only got one retail major advertiser whereas before we had two.' Rupert really believed that he could manipulate governments in any way he liked."

This does not sound like the self-deprecating elderly Australian gentleman giving evidence yesterday. Are there two Rupert Murdochs?

Major scoop, slightly flawed

The journalist Steve Platt is best remembered around Westminster for something he would probably prefer to forget. He was a long-serving editor of New Statesman magazine, who spotted how national newspapers were hinting at a rumour that the Prime Minister, John Major, had another woman in his life, other than his wife Norma. Platt ran a long article about it, suggesting that the rumour was untrue.

He had two errors. One was to overlook how heavily libel laws are weighted against defendants.

The other mistake was to wrongly identify the PM's alleged lover. If the piece had named Edwina Currie, that would have been a scoop. Cue bare-faced outrage from the Prime Minister and litigation that almost killed the magazine.

Staggers man hits the road

This year, the ex-editor of the 'Staggers' will have good reason to stagger, because he plans to run 2012 miles in 2012, and to run 100 miles in 24 hours across the mountains of the Lake District in July, to raise money for charity in memory of his Dad, who died last year.

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