Diary: Flint's friends a fickle bunch

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It gives me no pleasure to admit that Labour frontbencher Caroline Flint rather burned bridges when she made a point of not thanking me for highlighting the news she was among the leading contenders for 2011's Rear of the Year award. For those of you who don't keep up with current affairs in the way you should, I reported back in January that Caroline was among the early frontrunners for this year's "prestigious" gong, due to be handed out to the lucky winner at The Dorchester hotel this June. Supporters who had helpfully nominated the Shadow Communities Secretary pointed out at the time that Ms Flint would join an esteemed list including Babs Windsor and Graham Norton, should she emerge victorious. Alas, awards organiser Tony Edwards now informs me: "The nominations for Caroline seemed to peak quite quickly, confirming my suspicion they originated from Commons-based computers. Much the same happened last year with Harriet Harman – basically a flurry of voting activity, then nothing." Fickle, fickle world.

* With poor old William Hague having, as some have more politely put it, "lost his mojo", gossip has inevitably been turning to a potential successor. Admirers of Michael Gove have been quick to suggest that he could be just the man to give those pesky foreigners a firm but fair ticking off in the fraught months ahead. One potential Achilles' heel identified, however, is the longstanding belief around Westminster that the politician is terrified of flying. This dates back to a column he wrote for The Times in 2002, when he talked of his "clammy and shaking hands" and "galloping pulse" during a flight to Nice. Gove emotionally added at the time: "The knowledge that the phobia is so widely shared is a comfort. But it doesn't detract from my recognition that I have allowed physical cowardice to blight my life, burden my wife and inconvenience my friends." Certain fellow MPs, I'm sorry to say, have been quick to twist the knife in. "William might have made a balls-up, but do we really want a quivering wreck coming off the plane whenever he has to go as far as Dublin Airport?" cheaply snipes one such detractor.

* "Are you an embarrassment sir?" shouted one scruffy upstart this week as Prince Andrew defiantly walked past the media scrum, before getting on with representing Britain's interests in the way only he knows. The said tormentor was Newsnight's Michael Crick, whose goading credentials are long-established among contemporaries. Not that Crick currently has a monopoly on the historic journalistic practice of shouting random abuse at embattled public figures as they're bundled into buildings. I'm assured his principal Westminster rival is Sky's mad old parrot Jon Craig, who has made at least part of a career out of regularly squawking the old chestnut: "Are you going to resign minister?!"

* Meanwhile, the intervention of Prince Andrew's "close society friend" Goga Ashkenazi ensures fresh fuel has been added to the flames. Dubbed the "Kazakh Siren" among, I'm sure, other things, Ms Ashkenazi helpfully informed the Evening Standard this week that our most misunderstood of Royals had personally told her he was "very, very worried" about his future as a trade envoy. (I'm sure it'll be fine!) Her timely arrival in the limelight has prompted fellow former students at Rugby School to recall this is one young lady who steers clear of anything resembling a bit of rough. Pals claim "Gawker" as she was then affectionately known, once refused to join the girls on a trip to the cinema to watch The Full Monty. "Why would I want to watch all those ugly people?" she's said to have declared at the time. In her defence, she's far more tolerant of the posh and stupid.

* Disappointing news concerning portly Tory charmer Ed Vaizey, who this week apparently angered his fans by failing to turn up at the Birds Eye View film festival on London's South Bank. "He was supposed to be there," growls one deflated Vaizey groupie. "But he was nowhere to be seen. What with the problems inside the British film industry, he as an arts minister should be more supportive." Frankly, ever since Mr Vaizey flatly refused to answer my innocently worded question concerning the identity of his favourite Radio One DJ from the eighties, I've had doubts this man takes his brief seriously.