Diary: Costner makes connections

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The Independent Online

Kevin Costner must have hoped he had left scandal behind after being accused of performing a sexual act in front of a masseuse – no, not that kind of masseuse – at a Scottish hotel in 2004. (Costner and his second wife Christine Baumgartner were on their honeymoon at the time).

Yet the Hollywood star has become connected, if only indirectly, to Westminster's two raciest tales of the moment. Firstly, Costner once dated Birgit Cunningham: George Michael fan, pink bikini-wearer and alleged bit on the side of the Bunter-esque leader of the House of Lords, Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, Second Baron Strathclyde.

The actor-director's filmography, meanwhile, provides a useful shorthand for the dilemma facing Laura Johnson, wife of Alan, the ex-shadow Chancellor: The Postman, or The Bodyguard? Sounds like a bleak night at the video shop.

* Dave Cameron, I'm told, ought to be especially unsurprised by the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference smoked salmon-fuelled sexual antics of Bunter Strathclyde. The PM's stepfather-in-law Lord Astor is, after all, in the Lords whips' office – part of whose job is to maintain a working knowledge of every peer's extra-curricular activities. Still, some members of the Lords remain apprehensive at the thought of Dave giving poor, unfortunate Bunter the push, like a chortling Eton bully shoving his chubby classmate into a bramble thicket. Bunter is one of the few remaining hereditary peers, while his deputy is Lib Dem Lord McNally, a former adviser to James Callaghan, who supports the idea of an elected Upper Chamber. Those hereditary peers campaigning to keep their family seats might reasonably shudder beneath their ermine at the thought of McNally taking Bunter's place.

* Laying to rest any speculation that he's angling for Miliband (E)'s job (for at least five minutes, anyway), Ed Balls said last week that he doesn't plan to oust his fratricidal colleague for at least a decade. "The history of Labour Party leaders is that they last," Balls told an audience of unsuspecting A-Level students in Camden. "Not only is there no vacancy but I don't think there's likely to be one for the next decade. You never say never but... my priority is to get Ed Miliband to Downing Street." After Miliband (E) announced plans to run a "joint office" with Alan Johnson in the autumn, Johnson was rarely seen at their suite of rooms in Norman Shaw South, preferring to use his old parliamentary office instead. Balls's people, on the other hand, say their man is moving into Norman Shaw South forthwith, the better to keep a blinky eye on his boss. They refused to confirm, however, which Ed will get to decide what posters to put on the walls.

* No newspaper was more keen to cover the sexist remarks of Sky Sports presenters Andy Gray and Richard "Do me a favour, love" Keys than (Rupert Murdoch's) The Times, which splashed the smug pair across its front page yesterday. Only hardened sceptics, of course, would suggest this had anything to with Gray's ongoing legal action against (Rupert Murdoch's) News of the World for the alleged hacking of his phone. Gray is now reportedly considering legal action against (Rupert Murdoch's) Sky Sports over suggestions that his live microphone was tapped.

* So Ben Collins, the racing driver formerly known as The Stig, turned out to be treacherous and grasping. But was he also a little bit rubbish? The white helmet's latest anonymous wearer – rumoured to be BMW driver Sabine Schmitz, who probably doesn't know the offside rule – not only set a new circuit lap record on his/her first Top Gear outing (1.15.1 in an Ariel Atom V8), but also coached the not-especially-car-literate comedian John Bishop to the fastest-ever time for a "star in a reasonably priced car" (1.42.8). A less charitable soul than I might wonder whether Clarkson fixed the stats to make Collins look bad.

* When was the last time you shouted at the TV or radio, Radio Times asked posh actor chap Nigel Havers. "It probably involved Diane Abbott," said Havers, son of Michael, Baron Havers, a former Conservative Lord Chancellor, "because she drives me mad." I sense an Odd Couple-style reality TV show pitch coming on. Over to you, ITV2.