Diary: Clegg has an eye on the beach

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The Independent Online

The increasingly forlorn Nick "29 Shags" Clegg seems to have little to look forward to. He's been all but erased from his party's campaign literature, for a round of local elections in which the Liberal Democrats appear bound for disaster anyway. He's been perpetually duffed up by the press and, now, by Gillian Duffy.

And when he tries to complain ("I'm not a punchbag, Jemima" etc) he just gets duffed up again. No matter. Word reaches me of a light at the end of Clegg's dank tunnel. Apparently, the Deputy Prime Minister has been telling visitors to the Cabinet Office just how eagerly he's anticipating next summer's Olympics – mainly because, from his window overlooking Horseguards Parade, he'll have a superb view of the Beach volleyball competition. Of course, that's assuming he's still in the job by then.

* We now continue this column's brief series on the subject of second-class travel, which has thus far featured the BBC bigwig Alan Yentob and the civil servants of the Department for Work and Pensions, all of whom have been ordered to avoid first class and thus the disapproving glare of "public perception". MPs, too, have been told they can only claim expenses for standard-class tickets. But that hasn't stopped Labour's Liam Byrne, the former chief secretary to the Treasury, who claimed an extra £150 in upgrades to first class last year. The three upgrades of £50 each, reports the Birmingham Post, were purchased so that Byrne could get a seat, instead of standing among the great unwashed, during the commute between London and his Birmingham constituency, Hodge Hill. Byrne was, famously, the author of a note to his successor at the Treasury, David Laws, which suggested "There's no money left". Once a joker, always a joker.

* As Jemima Khan and Hugh Grant turn the world on its head by proving that celebrities can be journalists, threatened hacks should give thanks for Gwyneth Paltrow andJay-Z, who have "interviewed" one another for their respective vanity websites, Goop and Life+Times. Among their many mutually congratulatory exchanges is this gem, for which Pseuds Corner will surely be grateful... GP: "As someone who has walked through museums with you, eaten with you, heard music with you, I know firsthand how creativity in all areas lifts your consciousness. Do you feel that as a cultural figure of importance it is part of your responsibility to share what inspires you?" JZ: "I think it's every human's job to inspire others, to feed one another's senses. Inspiration begets inspiration times infinity." (Gwyneth also, however, reveals that she can recite verbatim the lyrics to a number of classic hip-hop tracks, such as NWA's "Straight Outta Compton" and "Fuck Tha Police". Yet more evidence that – interview technique aside – A-list celebrities are simply better than you or me.)

* If you'd told a Frenchman, say, 10 years ago that a decade hence a Brit might occupy the Élysée Palace, he'd have laughed heartily, so as to give you a good whiff of his garlicky breath. But now it just may come to pass, or so is the talk at the dinner parties of Paris. President Sarkozy's coalition is crumbling, and with it his chances of being picked by the UMP party to be its candidate in 2012 – let alone being picked as President by the people. According to the polls, Mr Carla Bruni couldn't beat any of his leftist rivals, yet his Prime Minister, François Fillon, just might be popular enough. Should Fillon run instead of Sarkozy, his Welsh wife, Penny, would be at his side. I expect the French far right finds the prospect of a British first lady rather "Gaulling". (Sorry.)

* More on my previously unsubstantiated claim that the writer-director Peter Kosminsky, creator of The Promise, is working on a drama about Nelson Mandela. I've now learnt that the project is a feature film, in development with Film 4, about the young Mandela. Kosminsky is currently at work on the script and, given the complaints about the anti-Jewish bias of The Promise, it is unlikely to be a standard bland portrait of the former South African president.