Congratulations to Konnie Huq and Charlie Brooker on their engagement, which came as even more of a shock to the media than it must have to Brooker, who once callously characterised his own face as "like a rucksack full of dented bells". Another pitiless description that he may care to keep from Konnie is his recent X Factor review. "Silly hair and shit singers: that's The X Factor," he wrote in his Guardian column, "the nation's sole mainstream conduit for popular music since the decline and fall of Top of the Pops. All the songs sound the same, all the singers are alike, and the only interesting acts are mediocre, officially sanctioned hate figures. One day, we'll emerge on the other side of this unprecedented cultural drought and wonder how the hell our imaginations survived." Huq has just been named the new presenter of the X Factor spin-off The Xtra Factor, delaying the pair's honeymoon plans. Blue Peter, I should add, escaped her fiancé's ire.
* Now that Diane Abbott has made it on to the Labour leadership ballot, who, in her absence, will join Michael Portillo on the This Week sofa? The BBC tells me each of the five remaining candidates has been offered a week in the snug spot to Portillo's right (geographically, not politically) in the run-up to the Labour Party conference in September, when the winner of the vote will be announced. And yes, they will all be appearing – should they accept the invitation – for free. Abbott has managed to rally a rather unexpected coalition of supporters, including Portillo himself, who confirms with a wry chuckle that he'll be backing his old chum Diane for Labour leader, "in the same spirit as I always have..."
* Elsewhere in White City, BBC employees are gearing up for another big year of Glastonbury coverage. The corporation is, however, a little cagey about precisely how many of its staff will descend on the festival site. In 2009, there were more than 400 BBC employees in Somerset for the weekend, just shy of the number sent to Beijing to cover the Olympics. This year, I'm informed, "it is too early to confirm numbers, but every member of the team will have a clear and accountable role." Planning to attend as always is Alan Yentob, the BBC's creative director and presenter-producer of Imagine. "I'm doing a project with [headliner] Stevie Wonder," he reveals, "so I'll be keeping a close eye on him." Yentob has also commiserated with U2 since the news that Bono's back surgery would preclude them from performing at the festival. "I saw Bono with his stick," he says. "And he's really disappointed."
* Ministerial cars may be on the way out, but ex-prime ministerial cars, we presume, are still supplied. Since Harold Wilson left Number 10 in 1976, all former PMs have been offered a government car and driver in perpetuity. Is Mr Brown making use of his? His press man won't be drawn on the subject. "At present it's still very strictly a security issue," he says. "You need to speak to the Home Office." I speak to the Home Office. "For God's sake. I don't know why on earth he'd pass you on to us," the Home Office says, adding: "The Government is committed to ensuring the cost for protective security arrangements are reviewed continually and withdrawn when they are no longer required." The Cabinet Office, I'm reminded, are (sort of) in charge of ministerial vehicles. "We do not discuss the security position of individuals," says the Cabinet Office. So, even whether Mr Brown has a car or not is a security issue? Yes, "because the reason he'd have it would be security". There's logic there somewhere.
* It hasn't escaped our notice that Michael Sheen (best known for his on-screen portrayal of another recent ex-PM) also bears a striking resemblance to the BP chief executive, Tony Hayward. Surely, given his illustrious history of non-fictional role-play, Sheen must take the lead in any mooted Gulf of Mexico movie? Sadly, his publicist insists that he's not attached to any such project. Not yet anyway.Reuse content