Diary: Classical inspiration for Kay

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The Independent Online

As the literary world quivers in anticipation of Kay Burley's fiction debut – the political soft-porn First Ladies, coming to an airport terminal near you next week – the Sky News anchor has obliged Easy Living with a list of her favourite books. Those who recall Burley's on-air claim that "the entire eastern seaboard of the United States has been decimated by a terrorist attack", will not be surprised to see a popular conspiracy theory – David E Scheim's The Mafia Killed President Kennedy – among them. Moreover, anyone lucky enough to have leafed through a preview copy of First Ladies will surely recognise the influence of Burley's remaining recommendations, which include works by Tolstoy, Dickens and Trollope (A, not J). Here's one more teaser for impatient Burley fans, a meditation on ageing to match her 19th century forebears: "Her 50th birthday was already so far over her shoulder she could no longer even see it in the rear view mirror. Surprisingly, Sally was still completely relaxed about Mother Nature, the old bird hadn't managed to mug her yet. She had, of course, made some concessions to her maturing years, including a silk anti-wrinkle pillow case just like the one Nigella said she had."

* John Prescott, normally so cool-headed, has allowed his true feelings to slip out in a Vanity Fair article about phone hacking at The News of the World, for which the ex-Deputy PM was interviewed. Prescott confesses he "can't bloody stomach" News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks, and accuses Dave's riding partner of participating in a cover-up at Wapping. Yet he saves his choicest unminced words for James Murdoch, sci-fi fan and scion of the News Corp empire. "He's an idiot," says Prescott. "The kids are never up to their fathers, are they?" Luckily, Mr Prescott's son David never faced the challenge of living up to his father's illustrious reputation: he failed, twice, to be selected as a parliamentary candidate. Would he have shown the same dignity in office as Prescott père? We'll never know.

* Labour backbencher Barry Gardiner complains to the Commons that, unlike taxpayer-funded banks, he can't offer his staff a Christmas bonus. IPSA, Gardiner claims, told him, "If I wanted to give them any reward for exceptional service, the maximum I was allowed to give was a £15 token each year for a meal. Where can anyone get a meal for £15 around here? It is absolutely disgraceful." What's also disgraceful, I'd suggest, is his ignorance of mealtime options in Westminster. Pub grub and a pint will get you change for £15 at St Stephens Tavern on Whitehall, I'm assured, and at the Caffe Nero by the tube, £15 would easily fund lunch for two, including drinks. I recommend the falafel wrap.

* If you're still pondering the vexed question of voting reform, I feel it my duty to warn you that if you vote No to AV, fluffy animals will die. An email circulated by the Masters of Foxhounds Association to pro-hunting sympathisers by the Heythrop Hunt (which strikes fear into the furry hearts of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire) claims that: "a 'Yes' Vote would make it unlikely that there would ever again be a majority government with the interests of hunting and the countryside at heart. Instead the AV system would lead to permanent coalition governments and could give the opportunity for vested interests that are against hunting, shooting, fishing and other activities to have a disproportionate influence." Foxes, fish and grouse will be voting Yes. The turkeys are yet to make up their minds.

* Despite regular attempts to curry favour with the cultured by citing his love of The Smiths, the PM's stock of schoolboy humour seems firmly rooted in the 1970s. Having betrayed an affection for one of that decade's great filmmakers, Michael "Calm down, dear!" Winner, at last week's PMQs, Dave yesterday made reference to Benny Hill's under-celebrated hit "Ernie: The Fastest Milkman in the West". In December, he bafflingly compared Ed Miliband to the hunt-inciting hand-puppet, Basil Brush. In the coming months, readers are encouraged to look out for references to Swap Shop, Emu and – for Yvette's benefit, this – Brotherhood of Man.