Diary: More monkey business

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The Independent Online

For those of you pedantic enough to question the merits of any column that resorts to revealing "news" about pretend people, move along.

As the alternative picture story leaping out concerned the under-used thespian Greg Wise, I for one think Alan Partridge's first interview in a decade wins hands down. Many who have come a cropper at the hands of a commissioning editor in recent years will support the theory that Alan's now infamous Monkey Tennis programme pitch to the BBC continues to haunt the unfortunate.

Via ShortList Magazine (High Street Ken lost a bruising bidding war), Partridge now proudly reveals: "If you want to sneer at me about Monkey Tennis come out and say it. Because my response is easy. Ridiculed by the British cleverati, Monkey Tennis was snapped up by TV stations in Laos and Taiwan and ran for two successful years. I exec-produced for a fee that almost exactly covered my air fare. After two series, the format reached the end of its natural life and the monkeys were quickly and humanely destroyed."

* Once upon a time, when that dashing bloke Nick Clegg was still doing well on the telly, being elected president of the Liberal Democrats would have been considered a sound career move. At the weekend, the job went to one Tim Farron, the elf-like MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, who narrowly saw off a challenge from former parliamentary colleague Susan Kramer by less than 2,000 votes.

Farron's narrow margin of victory leads me to wonder whether he discreetly performed the kind of political masterstroke many would have considered beyond him. I'm reliably informed that prior to his current misadventures on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, Lembit Opik, no less, personally offered to "publicly endorse" his old mate for the job. With the blood briefly seen to be draining from his face, Farron is said to have replied he would prefer High Street Ken's favourite Glamour Model Botherer to keep his support "discreet". What a cynical old world we live in!

* News of the widespread cuts to be inflicted on Greater Manchester Police has briefly reminded me of more affluent days. In 2002, money seemed no object when the said area's Police Authority splashed out £110,000 on "industrial-strength underpants" for bobbies, citing it as a "learning point from the Oldham disorder".

I'm assured it soon became a favourite anecdote of then Home Secretary David Blunkett when highlighting the Government's commitment to effective law enforcement.

* Not long after he proudly jumped on the Gordon Brown bandwagon in 2007 (yes, there was briefly such thing), by dramatically defecting to Labour from the Tories, many were inevitably questioning the state of Quentin Davies's political instincts.

Now Baron Davies of Stamford, the former defence minister, is still evidently getting to grips with the more restrained culture of the House of Lords. Just recently I hear he was on the receiving end of an embarrassing ticking off from Tory peer Lord Selsdon, who has been resident in the chamber since 1963. Irritated by Davies's high-volume performance, Selsdon declared: "It is only that those of us who have been in this House for more than 45 years who understand modern technology.

"Will the noble Lord recognise that he is so close to the microphone that he is shaking our eardrums? If he would step back a bit and move away from it, we might find it easier to hear him rather than dying."

Davies took the reprimand in good spirit, graciously replying: "I will, of course, take the noble Lord's advice, which I know is kindly intended." Of course it was.

* As a number of correspondents have helpfully pointed out, it was not her husband, Greg Wise, 44, who starred with the thoroughly delightful non-cougar Emma Thompson, 51, in the BBC's The Song of Lunch, but Alan Rickman. Wise, however, did appear in the film as the absent husband of his wife's character. Wise's face was clearly visible, for example, on the dust-jacket of a book in at least one shot. On reflection, the phrase "starred" was probably too strong a word for his involvement. Good to know he's still working, though.

* For my pleasure and yours (well, mostly mine), I'm consuming a dish per night for a week from The Celebrity Cookbook, a collection of recipes chosen by 63 household names for the Prince's Trust. Last night, Governor Schwarzenegger's Kaiserschmarrn, a traditional Austrian pancake: stodgy, but sweet. Tonight, Gary Lineker's paella, perfected between training sessions at Barcelona (1986-89). Lineker says he'd like to cook for President Obama, because "it would be incredible to hear the thoughts of the world's most powerful man". Why not just buy the audiobook?