Diary: Ministry for silly honours

Click to follow
The Independent Online

After being reminded that John Cleese can understandably take exception to ill-founded fears his funny bone may have been surgically removed in recent years, I would like to place on record the confident belief his best work could still be ahead of him. (Just pretend it's some other bloke in those rubbish AA adverts). Now the old boy proudly informs us that he wouldn't still be plain old Mr Cleese to you and I, if he had seen fit to accept a peerage from Paddy Ashdown back in 1999.

Cleese, who was offered the honour courtesy of his efforts on behalf of the Lib Dems, informed The Sunday Telegraph that the prospect of having to spend winters in Westminster rather than the more favourable climes of California caused him to turn Paddy down. The Fawlty Towers star appeared altogether more dismissive of a previous offer, however, when revealing he also rejected a CBE in 1996, "because I think they are silly". Cleese's famously more mild-mannered Monty Python colleague – one Michael Palin CBE – presumably begs to differ.

* Unhelpful observations that Nick Clegg's barnet suddenly appeared to have turned a curious shade of ginger over the weekend inevitably leaves me wondering just where our Deputy Prime Minister goes from here. The beleaguered politician set tongues wagging during an appearance on BBC 1's Politics Show, when it seemed he was displaying the ill-fated effects of a recent bathroom encounter with Just For Men.

Well-groomed male peacocks of a certain age assure me it bore all the hallmarks of a botched bid to discreetly colour his fortysomething locks a darker shade of brown – long known among hair dye aficionados as "the Paul McCartney". As I know Nick reads this column on a regular basis since concluding current affairs aren't for him, it seems to me that there are two ways forward. Firstly, he follows the example of David Cameron and Michael Portillo, who have both met similarly scurrilous gossip with dignified silence. Or, there's the "nuclear option" adopted by the ex-German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who triumphed against his tormentors in court after producing his hairdresser as a witness.

* Meanwhile, at least Nick can take some reassurance from the news he's just been voted the most fanciable politician among gay men. The result was less encouraging for Little Ted Miliband, who came last among the three main party leaders, scoring a measly 8.8 per cent. The Labour leader's inner circle can be forgiven for wondering just what has gone wrong for their man since the autumn, when he topped a rival gay poll after being compared to fellow party leadership contenders. "Seeing off the considerable challenge of Andy Burnham was regarded as no small feat at the time," one Miliband loyalist points out. "Quite why his stock has plummeted to such a degree since is anyone's guess."

* Having been helpfully handed the exclusive interview with Prince William and his bride-to-be following news of their engagement last autumn, ITV's political editor, Tom Bradby, is now at pains to assure us that he's not the royal lackey more uncharitable types suspect him of being. During a new interview in the Radio Times we're earnestly informed: "Tom Bradby wants to make it clear that he is not William's confidant, tennis partner or best friend."

Once that's mercifully cleared up, Bradby, who prefers to cautiously describe his relationship with the future king as a "loose friendship", admits that the pair do occasionally enjoy putting the world to rights over a pint. "He likes a drink, like anyone – we've had a few beers from time to time," he explains, only to hastily add: "But not excessively." Heaven forbid. Bradby also assures us: "If you were going to try to elect a king, I've got a feeling he would look quite like William." So anyone stupid enough to call our Tom a sycophant can jolly well put that in their pipe and smoke it!

* My grumpy old golfing partner Hugh Grant exacted delicious revenge on tabloid tormentor Paul McMullan, when he recorded the latter dishing the dirt on his former employers at News International. Sadly, I hear the man hailed "England's finest living actor" (by just me admittedly) currently has no new films in the pipeline. Still, Hugh's recent role as an undercover hack has to qualify as his funniest role in donkey's years.