Diary: Johnny expands his mind

In what may come as something of a surprise to those familiar with Johnny Borrell's interview history, the not-universally-beloved Razorlight frontman has some useful advice – particularly for potential undergraduates put off by the rising cost of higher education.

"I'm really into online courses at the moment," he told me at Nicholas Pol's Mother of Pouacrus exhibition. "There's this thing called UniTube, where you can watch video lectures from dozens of universities." A graduate of the School of Life, Borrell, 30, was being guided around the show by his girlfriend, model (History of Art) student Edie Campbell. Talking about his band's next LP, he explained: "It's going to be more of a 'Johnny' album again. More happy, more upbeat... The last album was a 'Johnny and Andy' album." By 'Andy', he means former Razorlight drummer and co-songwriter Andy Burrows, who left the band last year claiming that working with Borrell was "hell".

"Johnny and I didn't get on," he said. "He never wanted people to know that we both wrote songs."

* More details from the melancholy political afterlife of former future Labour leader, Miliband (D). While on holiday with his family in Lyme Regis a week ago, the still-honourable member for South Shields was heard debating a change of career with his wife, Miliband (L). "I had quite a long chat with him about cheese and politics," cheesemonger Justin Tunstall of the Town Mill Cheesemonger told Bridport News. The Milibands "were talking about opening a cheese shop," he revealed. "I did say I didn't want the competition." Miliband (D) is now believed to be on a couple of weeks' break in Italy. Researching Parmesan, probably.

* Another absentee at last week's PMQs was Miliband (D)'s fellow former future Labour leader, Gordon Brown. Apparently, the ex-PM popped into the House for prayers before Miliband (E)'s debut, a popular method of bagging a good seat for the show. "But then he disappeared," another Labour MP told me, puzzled. "It's like he's become a ghost." It seemed somewhat churlish to some of his old colleagues that Mr Brown should avoid his young protégé's first PMQs, but no doubt he had a chapter of his mildly anticipated book to finish. Miliband (D) won't be there today for Round Two. Will Gordon?

* Try telling Joe Cooke, the bow tie-favouring treasurer of Oxford University's Conservative Association, that we're all in this together. As noted yesterday, young Cooke appears blissfully oblivious to the coming cuts, inviting fellow OUCA members to a weekly lunch of quails' eggs and champagne as part of his campaign for the association presidency. Now he's freely handing out bottles of bubbly to anyone with information pertaining to the theft of a portrait of former OUCA president, Margaret Thatcher. The portrait was allegedly snatched from the association's stall during Freshers' Week. An outraged Cooke, convinced the Labour Club was responsible, told university newspaper Cherwell that he was "terrified by the thought of what those sick socialists are doing to her... [a gap] now exists not only on my wall but in my heart." In answer to your question, "Where the [heck] do they find these people?!", OUCA's other alumni include William Hague, Jonathan Aitken, Edward Heath and Daniel Hannan MEP. So that's where.

* Political satirist Alistair Beaton has been saving up material for his next play, a comedy commissioned by the Old Vic – and it sounds as if he's collected enough for two. "I get a lot of my inspiration from outrage," he told me at the opening of Enlightenment at Hampstead Theatre. "I was going to write a film about Gordon Brown but I decided I didn't want to hit a man when he's down. It's hard to say where satire comes from, but the Coalition is quite promising. I'm thrilled that Mr Osborne is getting up the nose of the nation." Beaton reserved his most biting words for a less expected recipient, however: "Until the Conservative conference I hated Nick Clegg more than anyone else," he went on. "He used to be a difficult target because he's so bland, but a man who's bland and sells his soul to the devil becomes increasingly interesting."


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