Diary: Hands off our assets, George
George (né Gideon) Osborne is in mounds of trouble after threatening to grab some of the nation's prize assets with a so-called "boob tax". Kay (Hurly) Burley – erotic novelist, Sky News presenter and face-liftee – turned her howitzers on the Chancellor, calling the proposals "an attack on women at what is an incredibly vulnerable time in their lives".
The Sun's all-natural Page 3 girl and cultural commentator Peta Todd refused to subject Gideon to the rack, pointing out that, "we have to pay VAT on all sorts of things that we consider essential like clothes and petrol... people who are having a boob job or other surgery simply to make themselves look better should also have to pay the tax".
Cushioning the blow, Ms Todd expanded: "Charging VAT on cosmetic surgery could raise up to £500m a year, money which could go towards the NHS or other public services."
However, artificially augmented Jessica Wright, of The Only Way Is Essex, put the knockers on the idea. "I'm not a politician," she explained (in case you were wondering), "but I think taxes in this country are high enough already." To be fair to Ms Wright, they are whopping.
* Reports that The Stone Roses are due to reunite look set to be confirmed today, but this column would like to congratulate their fellow Madchester veteran Shaun Ryder, formerly of The Happy Mondays, for pre-empting the news by almost five months.
As long ago as May, Mr Ryder informed the press that the Roses would reunite – because frontman Ian Brown was getting a divorce. "There is more of a chance now than ever of them getting back together. Ian's just split with his missus and I bet she's hit him for a few quid," the old charmer revealed. "The only reason they will get back together is if Ian needs the cash. He never has before, he's a millionaire."
On the subject of painful divorces, Vicky Pryce, the former Mrs Chris Huhne, continues to make her ex squirm. Not content with haunting Huhne on the airwaves – or, indeed, at the Lib Dem conference, to which she recently turned up – it seems Ms Pryce, a renowned economist, is now taking an interest in his ministerial brief.
This Thursday, she's due to take part in an Intelligence Squared debate at The Royal Society, on the subject of "Climate Change: windmills in our countryside or international diplomacy?" One imagines the Energy Secretary won't be present. Fellow debaters, be warned: she's a formidable opponent.
* This week's edition of BBC 1's Question Time will feature Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who's rarely permitted to represent his party on screen, lest he fuel the myth that all Tories are eccentric toffs. Mr Rees-Mogg, a former hedge-funder, reportedly shares use of an "exclusive" loo at Claridge's with the King of Spain, and once canvassed in Labour-held Central Fife with the help of his family's nanny. ("I do wish you wouldn't keep going on about the nanny," he rebuked one interviewer. "If I'd had a valet, you'd think it was perfectly normal")
* News of further historical inaccuracies in the forthcoming Downton Abbey Christmas Special. According to executive producer Gareth Neame, unseasonably sunny weather made for a troublesome filming schedule. "We're filming scenes for the Christmas special which is meant to be set on Boxing Day," he said. "But there's been such clear skies and beautiful summer weather I'm concerned it won't look right." Hasn't stopped them before!
Meanwhile, given that Julian, Baron Fellowes's previous plotlines have (inadvertently, of course) borrowed from Little Women and Mrs Miniver, this column must presume the paralysis of Matthew Crawley's nether regions will lead to a third series based on Lady Chatterley's Lover, with Lady Mary emulating her sisters by romping in the hay with a fellow of low birth. Sure enough, Neame confirms the show's next instalment will be set in the 1920s, when DH Lawrence's novel was written, published and banned.
* Finally, the result of last week's closely fought contest between alleged babydaddy Boris Johnson and mayoral rival Ken Livingstone, whose phoney war took the form of a pizza-tasting contest. Diners in the capital, this one included, were invited by Pizza Express to vote for the Boris ("spicy beef, onions, peppers and an extra mop of Mozzarella on top") or the Ken ("pomodoro pesto... with a strong tomato base and avocado").
Despite an early lead, Boris was vanquished by 52 to 48 per cent following a recount, perhaps after ex-mayor Livingstone's team had a slap-up dinner at the Westminster branch on Wednesday. At time of writing, Ken was expected to accept the award at last night's London Restaurant Festival Awards in Spitalfields. A victory to savour.
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