Diary: Hugh caught short at the bar
Thursday 14 April 2011
Actor Hugh Grant's enviable scoop – bugging former News of the World hack Paul McMullan as he spilled a tinful of phone-hacking beans – was so popular it crashed The New Statesman's website yesterday. Also circulating on Twitter, however, was the piece that McMullan had craftily sold to the Mail a week previously, about how Grant happened to pop in to his pub in Dover for a swift ale, then left without paying. Grant reportedly failed to settle his £5.45 tab, and the piece is illustrated with pictures of the actor looking sheepish at the bar – his breast pocket bulging with what may or may not be a dictaphone. "We only charge £2.80 a pint and you'd have thought with his millions he could afford it," McMullan gleefully told the Mail. Yeah Paul, you got him. You got him good.
* When Aaron Porter came to prominence as president of the NUS, his bland centre-left platitudes and general forgetability seemed the perfect fit for Little Ed Miliband's Labour Party. But, asked whether Parliament was his preferred destination, Porter demurred: politicians, he told this newspaper, sell "cheap gimmicks... My mum continually warns me against politics. She is of the opinion that politicians all become the same." When, in March, it was reported that he planned to put his name forward for the Leicester South by-election, he again denied everything. Yet now that his NUS successor has been announced, some dastardly union colleague has leaked internal emails suggesting Porter had planned to run – and before even completing his presidential term. "It was a chance I couldn't turn down", he reportedly informed his irate team, who told him in no uncertain terms what they thought of the idea. Just a day later, chastened, he changed his mind. "The reaction from the NUS/student movement", he explained in another email, "has been somewhere between lukewarm and quite critical." Still, I'm sure Mrs Porter was relieved.
* One hardly needs something else to blame the FA for – what with players' outsized wages, Wayne Rooney's vocabulary, the cheating culture and the appointment of Messrs Eriksson, McLaren and Capello – but the BBC is about to recall another black mark from the Association's distant past. United, a one-off BBC drama due to air on Easter Sunday, tells the story of the Busby Babes, including the Munich air disaster that claimed many of their lives. Among the cast is Dougray Scott as Man Utd manager Matt Busby, and Neil Dudgeon as FA boss Alan Hardacre, who is depicted demanding that the team (who were on their way home from a European cup tie against Red Star Belgrade) get back to England in time for a league game, or forfeit points. This prompted Busby to charter a plane, something he'd never done before; it crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway. The writer, Chris Chibnall, assures me he doesn't apportion blame in a script meant to honour the players – but, he explains, "there was undoubted pressure from the FA for the team to return home and meet their fixture. Hardacre is not the most sympathetic person in the film."
* The recently reconciled Hitchens brothers share some of their more poignant childhood memories in interviews (separate ones, of course) for Sky Arts series In Confidence tomorrow night. "I would get on [Christopher's] back and pound heavily with my tiny fists and he would claim that it didn't hurt," says Peter. "I can absolutely assure you it did, though." His sibling's approach was more subtle. "I can remember telling [Peter] he was adopted," Christopher recalls, "with a reasonable chance he might believe it."
* The good people of the Pennines are displeased after a billboard advertising big-budget Channel Five zombie drama The Walking Dead was erected next to a funeral home in Consett, County Durham. The ad for the show, whose heroes spend their time fleeing hordes of the undead, was – understandably – poorly received. "If you encounter this just as you are going to the funeral service to make arrangements for a loved one," an unamused local told the Northern Echo, "it could be very upsetting."
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