Diary: Burley hits below the belt

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The Independent Online

Good to hear that the Sky News anchor Kay "Hurly" Burley wasn't overly traumatised by her on-air altercation with the Labour MP Chris Bryant. When you've had dust-ups with photographers, or listened to protesters yelling for you to be sacked on live television, being called "a bit dim" must seem a trifling matter. Ms Burley, 49, was out in support of her fellow Murdoch employees (naturally) on Wednesday evening, at the launch of The Sun's new television magazine, Buzz. "I was just at a party with Chris Bryant, actually," she told me. "I told him I didn't recognise him with his clothes on." She was referring, I must assume, to Bryant's Y-front moment in 2003, when the honourable member for Rhondda apologised after posting a picture of himself in his underpants on a dating website. Somewhat below the belt of Ms Burley to bring it up, you might think, but hardly uncharacteristic. Burley is, after all, the relentless interrogator who made Peter Andre cry.

* You may have been wondering, as the Pope pootled through Glasgow: what's spinning on the Popemobile stereo? Well, if Benedict shares his taste in music with John Paul II (as he does his views on homosexuality and contraception), then perhaps it's Russell Watson's last LP. Talking to Nick Ferrari for next Saturday's Classic FM interview, every maiden aunt's favourite tenor told how he shook hands with JP2 and "kissed the Papal ring". But, Watson went on, "What was really incredible was that I gave him one of my CDs and a few weeks later this rather important-looking envelope popped through the door in Cheshire... It was a letter from the Pope, saying 'Thank you very much for the gift of your musical CD. Pope John II very much enjoyed listening to your beautiful music and he invokes God's blessing upon you.'"

* Would God's blessing be so forthcoming for Alex Proyas, lately hired to direct a film version of Milton's Paradise Lost? How this project escaped my notice until now I can't say, but I'll sure as hell follow its progress religiously. According to Variety, Proyas's adaptation of the 17th-century epic poem will focus on "the epic war in heaven between archangels Michael and Lucifer, and will be crafted as an action vehicle that will include aerial warfare, possibly shot in 3D." In 2007, one producer told The New York Times he feared an early script was too Milton-y, and demanded "less Adam and Eve and more archangels". In Eden, he explained, "there's the nudity problem". Funny to think too much biblical content might deter his target audience: Christians.

* The cuts bit quickly at Cowley Street, where in June the 50 or so employees of the Lib Dem press office and policy unit were told that half their number were to be let go. Thankfully, a member of the skeleton crew in the party press office (six remain of a once 12-strong team) says the vast majority of his former colleagues have found work since, so won't suffer as a result of the swingeing benefit cuts that their ex-boss, Deputy Clegg, champions. I put in a call to the Conservative press office to compare headcounts with their Coalition partners, but the young lady on the end of the phone told me she wasn't sure, as she's new. Guess they're hiring.

* Once, MPs made second careers of after-dinner speaking. The latest trend, however, is for stand-up comedy. In June Lembit Opik – ex-member for Montgomeryshire and potential London mayoral candidate (unless Cowley Street has anything to do with it) – took up the mic at London's Backstage Comedy Club. In the audience that night was Stephen Pound, MP for Ealing North, who (wrote this newspaper's reviewer) heckled "genially and ably from the audience". Evidently deciding he could earn better than the tepid reviews that greeted Opik's effort, Pound himself has agreed to perform a set at the club on 22 September. "Having spent my political life amongst amateur comedians," he told me, "I thought I'd see how the professionals do it. Having done slouch-down, I'm giving stand-up a go and ask for no more than charitable kindness from the carnivores next week – but I'm not holding my breath." "Slouch-down"! See what he did there? Anyone? No...? Tough crowd.