Diary: Boris exposed as wiff-waff 'cheat'

Much coverage yesterday of alleged babydaddy Boris Johnson's ping-pong playing at a London school. What the Mayor doesn't publicise, however, is that he prefers to stack the odds in his favour. Johnson revealed to a reporter this week that Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson had challenged him to a swimming race. But, as Stephenson explained to Nick Ferrari on LBC Radio yesterday, that gauntlet was only thrown down after the Mayor thrashed him at table tennis. Johnson has been known to construct an impromptu "wiff-waff" table at City Hall, by pushing desks together and using a pile of books as a net. Stephenson admits to being "palpably hopeless" at the sport.

And yet, claims the Commissioner, Johnson "cheats when he sets the table up... I know we're now being shockingly indiscreet, but he started it – and he cheats where he puts the books. I think it's outrageous, and it shows a competitive edge that goes beyond reasonableness." Boris, competitive? Perish the thought.

* Six strokes of the birch will surely be meted out to someone at the Department for Education, after minister John Hayes delivered a speech in parliament, large chunks of which appear to have been lifted directly from the Wikipedia entry on bank holidays. Far be it from this lowly hack to castigate anyone for fact-checking with the help of the most popular general reference work on the internet, which ranks seventh among all websites and has 365 million readers (or so I read somewhere). But to extract entire paragraphs of text and regurgitate them before the House seems ill-judged, especially given that Hayes' brief takes in the issue of plagiarism. Thus far he has employed the so-called "Huhne Defence", and blamed a researcher.

* The Foreign Secretary will doubtless have been advised to keep his Irish jokes to himself while accompanying the Queen on her state visit to the Emerald Isle. One of the more contentious gags in Hague's once-lucrative after-dinner repertoire involved an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman naming their sons after saints' days (the Irishman called his "Pancake"). Of course, if he happens to be sitting next to Prince Philip at dinner, then he may get a laugh out of it.

* The police are, you'll be pleased to know, taking even the slightest threat of terrorist activity seriously at this tense time. Documentary-maker Chris Atkins, the man behind the films Starsuckers and Taking Liberties, has been working on a pilot which includes a sketch involving, he says, a "Road Runner-style comedy bomb". His prop-maker pal recently dropped off said "bomb" at the front desk of Atkins' office building in Brick Lane, where it was left with a receptionist. Filming was delayed, and Atkins forgot about it.

Yesterday, he finally asked front desk if they had a package for him: "'What sort of package?' they asked. So I told them it was a fake bomb. I was called into the manager's office like a naughty schoolboy and told that someone had found it and called 999. Special Branch and the bomb squad descended, sirens blaring, and evacuated the whole building. I've had to write the police an email to say, 'Sorry, and can I have my bomb back?' I still need it for the sketch."

* Once again my reputation for factual vagueness has been burnished with the help of Crispin Mount, scourge of South-western Tories and this column's Cotswold correspondent (though I must say, Crispin, that your job hangs by a thread).

Last week Crispin brought news of the nation's youngest local councillor – Joe Harris, 18 – being elected to the Cotswold District Council. Harris first came to international attention via these pages after complaining to the council about the lack of CCTV in Cirencester, where he had been mugged. This much is true (or, at least, it better be). Rather less accurate was my assertion that Cirencester's CCTV coverage had been cut due to budgetary considerations.

"No cameras have been switched off because of budget cuts," explains Rosemary Lynn, the CDC member responsible for CCTV. In 2009, she continues, with admirable restraint, "in consultation with the police... the number of hours that the cameras were monitored by staff was reduced...[to] match the days and times at which the majority of incidents that are reported to the police occur." A splendid idea. Crispin, would you mind stepping into my office?


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