Diary: Latest role a drag for West

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The Independent Online

Old Etonian actor Dominic West, best known for playing maverick cop McNulty from The Wire, proves his chops again as a dapper 1950s newscaster in forthcoming BBC2 drama The Hour.

But as West told the audience at a Bafta screening of the show, inevitably described as "The British Mad Men", there was one major drawback to the part: he was forced to smoke marshmallow cigarettes, for that authentic mid-century look. "I would much rather the real thing," he said.

Moreover, "I would much rather die of cancer than smoke those. They were horrible." Goodness knows what the sensitive West will object to as he sinks his teeth into his next role – as the serial killer Fred West.

* Which cranky old Tory told Stella Creasy she couldn't read? Ms Creasy (at 33, one of Westminster's youngest MPs) was accosted in a lift on Wednesday by a gentleman member of a certain age, who huffily informed her that she and a fellow passenger must be illiterate, because a nearby sign clearly stated that the lift was for the use of parliamentarians and wheelchair users only. Bewildered and spittle-flecked, Ms Creasy showed the boorish fellow her badge and went on her way.

Sadly for Westminster-watchers, the man's reputation was not sufficiently grand for her to identify him, so she tweeted a request for the lengthy list of "snotty Tory MPs" instead. Creasy eventually received a contrite letter expressing regret, but her fellow passenger – a mere civilian – is still awaiting an apology. So who was the ungallant old dinosaur? Step forward, Defence Minister Andrew Robathan, the not-especially-honourable (as it turns out) member for South Leics. What a charmer!

* More from Sheffield, where deposed Lib Dem Council Leader Paul Scriven patiently awaits his elevation to the House of Lords. Sources suggest that a life-size portrait of Scriven, which he commissioned himself some years back, has been removed from the leader's office to make way for its new Labour occupant, Julie Dore. The painting is now said to reside in the basement, but a local officer denies that, Dorian Gray-like, Scriven will remain youthful and carefree, while his portrait ages horribly away from prying eyes. "The evil and decrepitude," said officer assures me, "shows in his actual face."

* Speaking of Lords present and future, Labour's very own "Doctor No to AV", John Reid, may be taking the Newsnight shift again in the not too distant future. While there has been some unlikely discussion of dusting down Gordon Brown to front the Labour Party's anti-independence campaign in Scotland, I'm reliably informed that Reid is becoming the consensus candidate to lead the pro-union charge alongside the Tories. The old bruiser seems to have fewer qualms about sharing a stage with David Cameron than he did with poor old Gordon.

* Details of Osama Bin Laden's media strategy are beginning to filter out, courtesy of the materials found at his hideout in Abbottabad. The al Qa'ida leader was not, it emerges, entirely happy with the editorial line taken by his organisation's online magazine, Inspire, allegedly edited in Yemen by aspiring journalist and jihadi Samir Khan. An American intelligence official tells ProPublica that Khan (or one of his eager, action-film loving young staffers) composed a piece that "discussed using a tractor or farm vehicle in an attack, outfitted with blades or swords as a fearsome killing machine".

Quite apart from the dubious efficacy of tractors (top speed: approximately 30km/h) as killing machines, Bin Laden supposedly feared the bloodthirsty notion would prove alienating to potential al Qa'ida recruits, not to mention other Muslims. In Bin Laden's notes, the unnamed official explains, the terrorist mastermind "seems taken aback. He complains that this tactical proposal promotes indiscriminate slaughter. He says he rejects this, and it is not something that reflects what al Qa'ida does."