Diary: Gaddafi daffy for Cartland

At time of writing, Colonel Gaddafi's fate and whereabouts remain unknown. During the final, frantic hours in his compound, however, it seems not unlikely that he might have turned for solace to the pages of a good book. And where better to escape than into one of the 723 tomes by Dame Barbara Cartland, reputedly the Libyan dictator's favourite writer? In 1990, Gaddafi placed an order with Foyles bookshop in London for a large consignment of the late Dame Barbara's cloying romances, as well as a selection of Sherlock Holmes and John le Carré titles. "I am the Colonel's favourite author," Dame Barbara claimed before her death in 2000, "He's read all my books and I think that's helping him become a more peaceful man." She also boasted a large Iraqi fanbase in her lifetime. Sadly, the admiration was not entirely mutual: Dame Barbara tended to refer erroneously to her biggest fan as "Colonel Godolphin".

* As yet more damaging revelations surface about the early days of Andy Coulson's employment by the Conservative Party, a new round of the blame game will surely be played at Millbank (and/or in the Newsnight studio). After Dave shrugged it off, the shroud of culpability settled around the shoulders of his Chancellor, George (né Gideon) Osborne, on whose advice the then-Opposition leader reportedly agreed to hire his former press chief. Yet now, this column has been semi-reliably informed, the miffed Osborne camp is keen to let it be known that Gideon was not the first to be taken in by the News International man. It was, in fact, Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Chancellor's one-time mentor, who introduced Gideon to Coulson after being hired to write a News of the World column (which appeared in the tabloid weekly from 2003-05). There are grumbles from the Osborne camp, I hear, that Hague has allowed his protégé to "take the flak", despite being "ultimately responsible" for allowing Coulson to "come into their lives". Or words to that effect.

* Meanwhile, the phoney war for the London mayoralty continues online, where (reports Political Scrapbook) alleged babydaddy Boris Johnson's attempts to attract support via social media have so far faltered. Boris's digital campaign guru boasted in March of a "hugely interactive website", but since the "Activist Forum" went live on the Mayor's "Back Boris" site five months ago, it has yielded a mere four comments: two from the campaign team, one from a Tory London Assembly candidate, and one from a baffled user asking whether it's "possible to see when one of your friends signs up (or a tally of how many of your friends have signed up)?" Here's a clue, chum: they haven't. Meanwhile, Club 305, the Mayor's new "private members' club" for elite backers (membership costs £2,012 – geddit?), has had a take-up of "less than 50 per cent" of what was hoped for, according to my (probably) impeccable sources. I guess that's what's known in the trade as a "soft launch".

* Still, all's not well in the Ken camp, either, with ex-Mayor Livingstone's web team being forced to remove an image from the new "Your Ken" site for Labour volunteers yesterday. Blogger(s) Guido Fawkes pointed out that a team photo of nerdy young Labour volunteers in Islington, where the party just won a council by-election, was snapped outside Johnson's house, thus identifying his family home. A sophisticated in-joke, no doubt, but a short-lived one. Following Guido's complaint, it was taken down. (Just days after that "Hitler" furore, too. Is this to be the pattern of the campaign? Team Ken makes a joke, everyone else takes offence?) Given that one is asked to present one's personal details to the Labour Party before being allowed access to the site, I wonder how many people would actually have seen said picture anyway.

* And finally, some news to comfort weak-bladdered French film legend Gérard Depardieu as he recovers from that unfortunate incident with an empty bottle on board a CityJet flight to Dublin last week. This column's Scotland correspondent recalls an interview with the late Norman Mailer at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2007, during which Mailer said he shared the same affliction with another ageing literary great, Philip Roth. "Phil, sometimes I have to go into a telephone box to pee," Mailer claimed to have confessed to Roth. "You just can't wait at my age." "I know, it's the same with me," Roth replied. Mailer reflected: "Well, you always were precocious." Mailer was 84 at the time. Roth was 74. (Depardieu is, er, 62.)

highstreetken@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice