Diary: Downing Street's in a tails spin
Thursday 21 April 2011
Well, what a right old pig's ear that was! One minute we were being told by Number 10 that Dave (PM) would be sticking two fingers up to all those silly old snobs insisting he had to wear traditional tails on the day of the royal wedding – the next we hear he'll be donning his Bullingdon best after all. Just as Tory heartlands everywhere were struggling to come to terms with the prospect of their leader embarrassing the nation in such a shoddy fashion, flustered Downing Street lackeys were suddenly spinning a different yarn altogether, insisting the Prime Minister had in fact always intended to embrace his fate on 29 April. Someone, we were pointedly told, had jumped the gun by unofficially suggesting otherwise – someone who hadn't even bothered to check with his boss before opening his big fat stupid mouth!
Having had a difficult start as Dave's new communications chief, surely it would be all too easy to lay the blame at former BBC man Craig Oliver's door? "Let's just say this wouldn't have happened under Andy Coulson," came the admirably restrained reply.
* While I met one surprisingly chirpy Liberal Democrat the other day who assured me he was "more optimistic than you might think" about the forthcoming local elections, it's only fair to add that the man in question was drunk. Indeed, the sight of Lib Dem councillors being guillotined to the cheers of bloodthirsty mobs up and down the land come 5 May is likely to make messy viewing. While no Scarlet Pimpernel, whispers mount that their leader already has a minor rescue plan in place for at least some who have remained loyal to the Cleggover cause. Currently facing an uphill battle to prevent Nick's Sheffield HQ from being toppled by invaders, those "in the know" suggest that the city's Lib Dem leader, Paul Scriven, can at least look forward to a Clegg-endorsed peerage, should he be forced to flee with the family cutlery. Another ill-fated figure said to be in the running for a new life in the Lords is Elwyn Watkins, who failed to see off Labour in the recent Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, after his previous defeat at the hands of the former minister Phil Woolas was overturned by the courts.
* Despite once being enthusiastically hailed as "Westminster's answer to Burton and Taylor" by someone who was clearly confused, the private life of Labour's showbiz couple Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper has largely remained under wraps. Perhaps now keener than ever to prove to those uncharitable critics that she isn't merely a short-tempered bossy boots with the kind of socially awkward husband you traditionally try to avoid at barbecues, the Yvette charm offensive now goes into overdrive. Speaking to the New Statesman, Cooper touchingly takes us back to the days of a star-struck girl in pigtails in the mid-Seventies, eagerly watching the Eurovision Song Contest. "I was seven when Brotherhood of Man won," she recalls, all misty-eyed. "So I took it really seriously and I knew all the routine and I could do crossover arms and everything." (Cooper, we're informed, then duly "kicks her heels and swings her arms to prove it"). Rumour has it a white-suited Balls even serenaded her with the band's hit, Save Your Kisses For Me, on the night he proposed.
* The surprising furore surrounding whether or not Ringo Starr's birthplace is about to be demolished has become increasingly complicated to follow in recent days. No sooner do we hear that the Government is stepping in to save 9 Madryn Street, than angry fellow Scousers declare it's being pulled down come what may because a) it's an eyesore of little historic importance; and b) the man in question, long a suntanned resident of Los Angeles, has already made it clear he couldn't give two monkeys what happens to the place.
* Reports that recently installed national treasure Robbie Savage is considering extending his football career by one final year shouldn't mean his blossoming role as a pundit is interrupted for long. The former Welsh international's regular pearls of wisdom on Five Live have already led to him being nominated for a prestigious Sony Radio Academy Award next month – which shows just how far the industry has moved on. Only jealous colleagues at the BBC, who, I venture, aren't up for a gong in May, suggest Savage was hired because "lots of football fans listening in are a bit thick".
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