Diary: Maverick... with a Volvo

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The Independent Online

It took five whole episodes, but I've finally worked out what was bothering me about BBC1's Luther, starring Idris Elba as maverick copper DCI John Luther: the man drives a Volvo. Morse had his Jag, Gene Hunt his Audi Quattro, Rebus his Saab. But a Volvo? Would a maverick really drive a car with such an impeccable safety record? "Originally, Luther wasn't going to have a car at all," novelist Neil Cross, Luther's creator, explains in an email. "The producer pointed out this may prove to be impractical in a drama show... I wanted to give Luther the kind of car a man who didn't care much about cars he might buy, begrudgingly, when backed into a corner. He bought it 10 years ago from his erstwhile next-door neighbour, Fat Thommo Chitwood, for £500 and a David Bowie bootleg on blue vinyl. He suspects that at some point in its long history it was probably stolen, because there was a half-eaten packet of Murray Butter Mints in the glove box. It's probably still there."

* How much does Mark Regev earn? Not enough, probably. Israel's foreign press spokesman has a tough gig, nightly shielding his nation from the insinuations of Paxman, Snow et al. In Israel, his is a permanent civil service position; so is his salary public? And does he, Jock Stirrup-style, make more than his boss? "Civil service salaries are modest here in Israel," Regev says, when I interrupt one of his more difficult days with my call. "But I'm not sure I want to make mine public. I'm only the spokesperson. I can assure you I earn less than my Prime Minister and my ministers." Israel's PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, took a 5 per cent pay cut in 2009, leaving him less than £80,000 per year, not including his free room and board. Which means Regev, Israel's televisual ambassador to the world, last year earned less than half the salary of Sir Ken Knight, Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser at our own Department of Communities and Local Government.

* While I'm on those paid to defend the allegedly indefensible, BP has hired a new PR flack. Anne Womack-Kolton has a fine record of rep-bolstering for the unpopular: she was Dick Cheney's press secretary during the 2004 election, responsible for maintaining the vice-president's teddy bear-like public image. BP evidently thinks she can save its Stateside reputation in the face of falling share prices and rising crude levels in the Gulf of Mexico. I give her about as much chance as an oil-slathered sea turtle.

* New MPs Rory Stewart (Con, Penrith and the Border) and Tristram Hunt (Lab, Stoke-on-Trent) have been declared the hippest cats in the Commons, coming 45th and 48th respectively on GQ's annual list of the world's coolest gentlemen. No surprise that Dylan Jones's publication prefers the Tory. The GQ editor published a book of highly congenial interviews with David Cameron, whom his magazine named Britain's "most influential man" while Gordon Brown was still PM. The entire top 50 seems in thrall to the upper class: number one is Prince Harry, to whom Old Etonian Stewart was once tutor. Hunt, the son of a lord, is one of Labour's poshest parliamentarians. He told me: "I look forward to taking Dylan Jones around the stylish and attractive pubs, bars and cultural attractions of Stoke-on-Trent." Hunt was beaten to 47th by Dappy of N-Dubz who, as mentioned here before, attended "Labour's Eton": Haverstock School, which educated the Milibands and Oona King.

* Ken Livingstone, King's mayoral rival, ruffled one reporter's feathers before his campaign even started: Martin Bright, political editor of The Jewish Chronicle, who made an unflattering documentary about the ex-mayor before the 2008 election. In a recent interview for the Iranian Press TV network, Livingstone described Bright as "a bit of an Islamophobe". Bright's open letter to Livingstone in the JC's latest issue charges him with libel, but says an apology would suffice. Maybe Livingstone should take that offer: he recently had to pay a reported £11,000 damages after accusing a Labour colleague of (what else?) Islamophobia.