Some scepticism regarding the sad tale of Mars, Mr and Mrs Michael Gove's Jack Russell/Whippet mongrel, and his violent run-in with an urban fox on Tuesday evening. "No fox would ever attack a Jack Russell," insists anti-hunt campaigner Penny Little – and Sarah Vine (aka Mrs Gove) confirms as much in her Times column: Mars attacked the fox, but came off second best, losing a claw and a thimble or two of blood. Ms Little also disputes, however, the Education Secretary's 2008 claim that Mars's breed was "named after the great reforming Victorian premier", Whig PM John Russell. Ms Little explains: "Jack Russells [example pictured] were in fact a breed devised by the Reverend John Russell in the 19th century, specifically to be fierce killers of foxes. They are named after this awful parson, not a Whig Premier. He was a dedicated hunter of otters, foxes and stags. As a schoolboy he set his ferrets onto a fellow pupil's pet rabbits – he never looked back after that." Still, a dog can't be expected to deny its very nature. Mars, this column's hopes and prayers remain with you.
* The shadow Culture Secretary's suggestion that journalists be licensed has been quietly shelved (though perhaps not as quietly as Mr Lewis or Labour would prefer), but what of the current regulatory body, the Press Complaints Commission? The PCC is advertising for a new chair, after Tory peer Baroness Buscombe's resignation over the failure to police phone hacking. Her replacement will earn £175,000 a year, for three days' work per week, but must come up with bright ideas to reform the body and give it teeth: the plan is to rid the PCC of newspapermen and ensure its members are independent. Responsibility for compiling a shortlist of candidates has fallen to a trio of selectors, among whom is one Dominic Schofield, senior client partner at headhunting firm Korn/Ferry International. Schofield happens to be a former Tory parliamentary candidate, for Battersea (2005) and Basildon (2001).
* Further to my query regarding the absence of former New Labour titans from the conference, an eyewitness has come forward with a sighting of just such a grandee: as Ed Miliband addressed underwhelmed delegates in Liverpool, a carefree Lord Mandelson was strolling in Knightsbridge, sweater slung over one shoulder, enjoying a spot of window shopping. "He looked very cheerful and relaxed, without a worry in the world," I'm assured. Wasn't it Miliband (E) himself who suggested Mandy should seek "dignity in retirement"?
* More from The Beeb Book, Victor Lewis-Smith's memoir of his time as a producer at the BBC. (The unfinished manuscript, he claims, is the subject of a three-way bidding war between publishers.) Among the characters portrayed is chin-stroker Alan Yentob, who Lewis-Smith claims once interrupted the pair's lunch to take a call from architect Richard (now Lord) Rogers. Yentob, Lewis-Smith insists, had commissioned Rogers "to design his garden shed". Meanwhile Jenni Murray was supposedly very upset (writes Lewis-Smith), "when I was a temporary producer for Woman's Hour and made a crack about how 'in tests, when asked a preference, eight out of 10 feminists say they preferred whiskers'." An on-air row between Lord Archer and Ian Hislop, moreover, allegedly saw Archer call his tormentor a "left-winger", then pour a glass of champagne over Hislop's notes, surely one of the more exciting moments in the history of Midweek. Lewis-Smith's publicist is convinced the book will ruffle feathers at the corporation: "I suspect there are quite a lot of people at the BBC," says Mark Borkowski, "who will be clenching their buttocks at the prospect of these stories coming out."
* Campaigner, Guardian columnist and Old Stoic George Monbiot has called on hacks everywhere to join a mandatory register of interests, and has set a fine example by publishing his own (admirably modest) earnings. In the interests of transparency, it seems only proper for this column to follow said example with a preliminary register of its own, which follows. Annual income from The Independent: peanuts, frankly, and lint. Other income: bugger all. Investments: ha ha, very funny. Gifts: somebody sent me a free copy of Alan Sugar's new book, The Way I See It (Macmillan, £20), yesterday. Hospitality: gratefully received.Reuse content