Tristram Hunt MP, voted the second-coolest man in the Commons by GQ magazine, last night claimed a rather more lucrative award (unless, of course, that GQ nod leads to modelling contracts).
The newly elected member for Stoke-on-Trent Central won the £5,000 Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography at the Society of Authors' annual awards in London, for his book The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels. Hunt, 36, is an expert in socialist history, and one of the most strident young Labour MPs in the House.
So we presume he plans to donate the prize to a worthy leftish cause in his recession-hit constituency? "I've yet to allocate the funds," he hedges, "but I imagine my wife will take a keen interest in them. After living through the writing of a book on Engels and an election campaign, she deserves a holiday somewhere sunny." Comrade, we are disappointed. And we recommend the Amalfi Coast.
* Kudos to performance poet Paula Claire, who, despite having dropped her bid to become Oxford University's professor of poetry, has garnered numerous column inches (including these ones) and an interview with an audibly baffled Evan Davis on yesterday's Today programme. Claire picked the perfect year to make maximum news impact, accusing the university of sexism and partiality in the wake of the Walcott/Padel controversy of 2009.
Unfamiliar with her work prior to this publicity burst, we sought out her website, paulaclaire.com. Under the page title "Hear My Poerty [sic]", Claire's news blog lists her reasons for withdrawing from the race. She goes on to report her swift recovery from the trauma thanks to a session with some local dancers, musicians and "language experimenters" this weekend.
Taking an Italian poem as inspiration, Claire relates, "I wrote the word PHOENIX in very large Greek letters in white talcum powder in the empty car park surrounded by beautiful trees and in the sunshine about a dozn [sic] of us improvised all the words, danced and the musicians played. It is pouring now so no sign will remain of what we did except in the treasurehouse of our imagination." Claire's rivals included Michael Horowitz, known for punctuating his poetry readings by parping on a kazoo – or, as he calls it, his "anglosaxophone". The Great British Eccentric is alive and well, and possibly in search of words that rhyme with Oxford.
* The BBC is already under fire for the expected over-abundance of staff it's likely to send to Glastonbury next week. But what about the production costs of that other great summer music event, The Proms? Roger Wright, the corporation's Proms tsar, last year claimed £3,561 of licence-payers' cash to stay in a London hotel during Proms season. This year, to help save the BBC's blushes, cartoonist and Private Eye founder Barry Fantoni tells us he's written to Wright to offer him accommodation at his home in Clapham, a short bus ride from the Royal Albert Hall. Fantoni's house in leafy SW4 features a put-up bed, as well as free tea and coffee-making facilities. Wright has yet to respond to the offer.
* Late former child star Gary Coleman's former agent Victor Perillo has started a Twitter account, twitter.com/GcolemanTruth, "to address negative rumours and correct false information about the deceased child star and his family". We note that after a day in operation the account had 96 followers, while its quickly established spoof spin-off, twitter.com/GColemanLies (the work of "someone not at all associated with Gary Coleman, dedicated to negative rumours and false information") had 139.
* Who besides Baroness Thatcher will Sarah Palin squeeze into her threatened UK visit? Yesterday her fellow Fox contributor, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, recanted his previous support for Obama on his Telegraph blog. Clearing the ideological decks for an intro to America's favourite Tea Party guest? Dan, let us know.