Diary: Boris and Arnie bond on bikes
Friday 01 April 2011
As next year's London mayoral election approaches, we can doubtless expect to see many more pictures of alleged babydaddy Boris Johnson wobbling along on the bicycles that (thanks to that handily alliterative "B") happen to bear his name, accompanied by some celebrity or other. Here, balancing on the aforementioned "Boris bikes", are the Mayor and his chum Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he once described as a "monosyllabic Austrian cyborg". Schwarzenegger seemed very taken with the contraption, saying (with a frankly admirable grasp of English): "The bike rides really well, it is solid, it burns calories so you can eat a few extra Wiener schnitzel and you get away with it... It's a brilliant idea and it shows great leadership from the Mayor. Great, great leadership." The bikes, he went on, "are a great idea for the whole world". I can only agree – though I feel duty-bound to point out that this particular "great idea" was conceived not under Boris, but under Ken Livingstone.
* In case you hadn't noticed – though you seem to read newspapers, so you can hardly have failed to – Toby Young (journalist, 47, Conservative with a large "C") is to open his own "free school" in London, a project supported by Harry Phibbs (journalist of indeterminate age, Conservative councillor). Not everyone wishes them well, however, as a document being distributed anonymously to London diary hacks such as myself appears to prove. Said document is a letter from a young Young, then a sixth-former at William Ellis comprehensive in north London, to Phibbs, inviting him to join his political discussion group, "The Young Apostles". Writing on his father's House of Lords headed paper, Young reassures Phibbs that "females" are banned from the group, as "I don't believe them equiped [sic] with the ability to discuss things". (Though, he admits, "some local saggy-titted feminists... picketed the first meeting".) Among Young's "apostles", he claims, are the sons of MPs Michael Meacher and George Gardiner. Happily, Young has since learnt the error of his ways: his West London Free School is non-selective, and open to children of both sexes.
* The young Young might have benefited from the sage advice of Sarah Brown, speaking this week to sixth formers at her own alma mater, Camden School for Girls, about her work with women's rights organisation the White Ribbon Alliance. Brown urged "boys and girls alike" to embrace feminism. Asked by a male student whether it was tricky to get boys to embrace feminism, when the name itself suggests femininity, Brown replied schoolmarmishly: "You'll just have to get over it, it's only a word." Toby, take note.
* More spectacularly skilful synergies in the service of Richard Desmond, philanthropist and former publisher of Asian Babes. Yesterday, Desmond's Daily Star devoted its front page to a rather bold job offer. Cheryl Cole, claimed the paper, "could sensationally snub X Factor supremo Simon Cowell by accepting a £5million deal to host a new-look Big Brother". Pending talks with production company Endemol, Big Brother is expected to return to our screens (praise be!) via Channel Five – now owned by Desmond. But don't expect Cheryl to be there when it does.
* Word reaches me of another optimistic offer from Desmond's empire. Hardly had Little Ed Miliband announced his engagement, I'm told, when Desmond's OK! magazine called hoping to cover the wedding with a glossy photoshoot. Miliband, though familiar with the shoulders of giants (Pankhurst, Mandela, etc), seemed nervous to stand on those of Jordan and the Rooneys, declining the invitation before a fee could even be discussed. The thought of Big Ed Balls and Miliband (D) grinning in morning suits from the coffee table of my dentist's waiting room is not an appealing one, but I'm sure Justine would have looked fetching in hot pink.
* Some final extracts from Kay Burley's novel First Ladies. Page 51: "Erica giggled at Ben's embarrassment and allowed her hand to rest on his inner thigh." P127: "Charlie turned... to pay a little more attention to a young lady who was gently caressing his inner thigh." P404: "She made no attempt to disguise her glee at the image of a young Jimmy Phillips with his hand resting on the inner thigh of a quite obviously delighted Ben Watson, his expectation most apparent."
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