Diary: Donald tries to come up trumps playing race card

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The Independent Online

With Newt Gingrich now officially in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, the eccentrically-coiffed front-runner of sorts, Donald Trump, is surely smart to be scotching unfavourable rumours about his own candidacy. Accused by critics of "race-baiting" over his pursuit of President Barack Obama's birth certificate, Mr Trump assured Fox News yesterday that some of his best apprentices were black. "When it comes to racism and racists," the famously wealthy businessman revealed, "I am the least racist person there is. And I think most people that know me would tell you that ... In fact, [black person] Randal Pinkett won on The Apprentice a little while ago... and Randal has been outstanding in every way." Satisfied, haters?

* Despite its existence being aired by the Guardian's Michael White, there's still no trace online of the footage of Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander manufacturing a monumental fart in an empty Sky News studio while the cameras – apparently unbeknownst to him – rolled. This governmental guff emerged early on Friday, as he awaited an interview on the AV referendum, and the video clip escaped into the Sky internal email system like a bad smell into an air vent. (Any employees who'd care to waft it my way should use the above email address.) The whiff of censorship hangs over Sky's decision not to broadcast it, but a friend has viewed the footage and describes it thus: "Head down, pauses, props right elbow on chair arm, leans upper body through 20 degrees, lifts left buttock, emits HUGE one-second trump, sips coffee." When asked if Mr Alexander wished to make a statement, a source insisted: "We are not planning to release anything further."

* Nick Clegg, says Labour's Douglas Alexander, is "a vortex of negativity". Chris Huhne, claims his ex-wife, is "a bit like a maniac [driving-wise]". With the Liberal Democrat leader and his rival under fire (and Danny Alexander demonstrating dubious bowel-control), who's to save the party from itself? Step forward, mild-mannered party president Tim Farron. After facing criticism for his observation that Mrs Thatcher's 1980s government engaged in "organised wickedness", Farron murmured politely in the Westmoreland Gazette that he "should be more careful... My high profile as president has put me under greater scrutiny. The media are desperate to write a negative story about me". I should warn Farron to keep one shady tale from his past under wraps if he wishes to maintain his reputation: as this column has previously revealed, to alarming disinterest, he was once Lembit Opik's lodger.

* A disgruntled diner's first thoughts on the opening of the refurbished St Pancras Hotel. Despite the venue's many qualities, my source reports, it's Booking Office eatery is a design disaster. "The chairs are too high, the tables too low, and an average-sized chap can't jolly well pull the table closer because it's hard to get one's knees under them. Ergo, you have to reach forward and down to eat. The plates are lipless satellite dishes, so if you rest your cutlery on the edge it slides straight into the food. The manager agreed, gracefully, and said the situation was under review. One hopes the same blunder hasn't been committed at the hotel's super-posh Gilbert Scott restaurant, run by Marcus Wareing."

If Mr Wareing's people so wish, I'd gladly dine at Gilbert Scott on his behalf, to verify its lack of similar ergonomic issues.

* More from Crispin Mount, my occasional Cotswold correspondent, who claims to have scouted another future Liberal Democrat leader. As this column reported in October, 17-year-old Joe Harris vowed to run for office after he was mugged in Cirencester and found, to his dismay, that nearby CCTV cameras were switched off due to budget cuts. Harris, now 18, was elected to the District Council last week, making him the youngest Cllr in the country. "Chums," claims Crispin, "call him the 'Judd Trump' of politics." And no, that's not a Danny Alexander joke.