Diary: Jilted Flo's literary love

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The Independent Online

The delightful Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine, is a huge Bret Easton Ellis fan – so huge, in fact, she interrupted preparations for her London gig in Somerset House last Thursday to attend the GQ launch party for his new novel, Imperial Bedrooms. But is Bret a fan of hers?

Like all his books, his latest work is rife with music references. We've read only the first 50 pages so we asked her, does she get a namecheck? "No," said Flo, wistfully, "but Bat for Lashes does, which is impressive." Maybe you'll be in his next book. "Maybe. I guess I'd better go and introduce myself!"

After steeling the nerves with half a glass of Louis Roederer and a wild mushroom and leek tartlet, Diary spoke to Ellis, too. Robert Downey Jr starred in the film of Less Than Zero, to which the new book is a sequel. But Ellis disowns the original movie in the opening pages of Imperial Bedrooms (we have read that bit). Will Downey be doing the new one? "If Robert said he wanted to do it," said Ellis, "it'd go into production next Wednesday." We'll take that as a no.

* Confused by the Big Society? Fear not, for the Tories prepared a host of useful metaphors in anticipation of the PM's big Big Society launch. Mr Big Society, Lord Wei of Shoreditch, compared the project (on his Big Society blog) to a coral reef: government is the sea-bed; social enterprise, private and public services are coral. The rest of us are fish. About as clear as the Gulf of Mexico, no?

Elsewhere on the Big Society site, it is suggested Wei and chums will "create a platform to enable and empower citizens ... an 'iPhone for their apps'." An iPhone. Simple. And if you numbskulls still don't understand the Big Society, then Lord Wei can at least enlighten you as to its effects, which he likens to Gutenberg's printing of the Bible. The Big Society, he predicts, will "power the reformation of politics" (among other things). Still no clearer? Well, Lord Wei reassures his readers: "There will always be a part of Big Society which will remain mysterious and yet also enticing – like life itself."

* The Culture and Sport Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has picked two paintings by Mark Wallinger to adorn the walls of his office. The works, part of the Government art collection, are contemporary with a classic feel: Brown's (Mr PJ Brown) and Brown's (Mrs EW Brown), from Wallinger's 1993 series of 42 Brown's paintings, depicting the livery colours of jockeys who rode horses owned by people named Brown. (More appropriate, perhaps, than the artist's most famous work: a recreation of Brian Haw's peace protest in Parliament Square.)

"I'm glad to hear he's enthusiastic about the arts," said Wallinger when we told him the news. "I hope he saves them from too many cuts. They're the one boom industry in this country that provides value for money, or as much as football and tennis anyway."

* Alexei Sayle couldn't resist a pop at his old pal Ben Elton during an appearance on London's South Bank last week. After reading from his new memoir Stalin Ate My Homework, Sayle admitted regret for his past criticisms of Elton. "I saw Ben at a party and apologised for all the things I'd said about him in the papers," the comedian recalled. "So he invited me to the opening night of his Rod Stewart musical Tonight's the Night. And in those three hours, I paid for every bad thing I'd ever said about him."

* Ulsterman Sir Roy McNulty is busy as ever. Now in his 70s, the deputy chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority is also chair of regional development agency Advantage West Midlands (AWM), and chair of Ilex, the urban regeneration company for the Derry City Council area. So how did he split his loyalties when Birmingham was competing with Derry for the title of the first UK City of Culture (which Derry won last week)?

Sir Roy "was never involved in any discussions," an AWM spokesperson assures us, and "announced at the Board meeting in March 2010 that he had a potential conflict of interest". But where, we asked an Ilex spokesperson, does Sir Roy's heart really lie? "He's an Irishman," they chuckled. "Do you honestly think he'd be backing Birmingham? Now don't go telling him I said that ..."