Diary: Gove's dog is foxed

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The Independent Online

This column would like to extend its heartfelt sympathy to the Education Secretary's dog, Mars, who sadly failed to live up to his warrior-like name when attacked by a dastardly fox in the Gove garden on Tuesday evening. Sarah Vine, Times columnist and Mrs Michael Gove, tweets that Mars, a Jack Russell/Whippet mongrel, lost a claw in the vicious assault. He was saved, however, by the quick intervention and martial arts abilities of family friend and author of Hotel Babylon, Imogen Edwards-Jones.

Mr Gove has previously praised his pet's progressive credentials: "The Jack Russell is a Whig dog – named after the great reforming Victorian premier," he wrote in 2008. "And Whippets are, in every sense, a workers' animal... Mars, is affectionate, resilient and loyal." Get well soon.

* Victor Lewis-Smith, alleges Wikipedia, is "a satirist, producer, critic and prankster... known for his sarcasm and biting criticism". Now, I can sensationally disclose, the Private Eye regular has written a book about his experiences as a BBC employee during the 1970s and 80s. Among the uproarious tales re-told in The Beeb Book (and seen by this column) is that of Libby Purves, presenter of Radio 4's Midweek, throwing a tantrum at Lewis-Smith because he refused to allow a church choir to sing "Ding Dong Merrily On High" at the end of the programme when he was its producer.

He also writes of a row with the late Robert Maxwell, then proprietor of the Daily Mirror, over Maxwell's persistent (and persistently denied) requests to land his helicopter on the roof of BBC Broadcasting House. BBC managers refused to allow it for logistical reasons, though there were also rumours that Maxwell had been seen urinating from the top of Mirror headquarters, and Corporation bosses did not want him to repeat the act from their own building's roof.

* Tony Blair has thrown his considerable weight as an ex-Prime Minister, Middle East peace envoy and senior adviser to JPMorgan Chase behind a campaign to convert the late comedian Stan Laurel's former school into a museum and arts centre. According to The Northern Echo, the King James I Grammar School for Boys in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, (close to Mr Blair's old Sedgefield constituency) was severely damaged by an arson attack in 2007.

The Prince of Wales has already lent his support to The Stan Laurel Community Building Group's plans to restore the school, where Laurel was a pupil in 1902, and the campaign recently received a letter from Mr Blair's private office, saying that "As a former resident of County Durham, the area remains very important to Mr Blair... the very best of luck with the renovation."

To accompany the letter, the ex-PM also sent a signed copy of his autobiography, A Journey, to be auctioned to raise funds. Mr Blair has amassed an estimated fortune of at least £20m since he left office. The campaigners are far too polite to ask, I'm sure – but couldn't he have sent two?

* Is it just me, or is it a touch strange (historically speaking) that the previous two Labour leaders were absent from this week's party conference? Presumably Mr Blair had better things to do than turn up to be booed in Liverpool. But the equally boo-able Brown was nowhere to be seen, either. In fact, most of the old ultra-Blairites – Mandelson, Milburn, Byers, Hewitt – were absent; perhaps they're unwelcome since Ed Miliband declared the death of New Labour. Miliband (D) showed his face, but skipped his brother's speech (lucky him) to speak at a more important conference in Washington. Andrew Adonis made only the briefest of visits. Even John Prescott wasn't present, though he tweeted his support from China to make up for it.

One presumes Messrs Howard, Duncan Smith, Hague and Major won't miss the coming week's Conservative bunfight in Manchester.

* Songwriting great Paul Weller, quizzed by Q magazine on the identity of "The song I wish that I had written", has chosen "What a Waster" by The Libertines. Weller especially admires the lyrics, he explains: "I've been trying for years to work the word 'cunt' into a song. It's more difficult than you'd think." The same doesn't apply to newspaper columns.