Diary: Murdoch is real deal, says Jackman


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The Independent Online

Hugh Jackman, on the publicity trail for Real Steel, his new film about robots hitting each other, is a long-time friend of fellow Australian Rupert Murdoch. Jackman is godfather to Mr Murdoch's young daughters from his marriage to Wendi "Ding Dong" Deng, with Tony Blair being godfather to Grace, the eldest. He assures The Sunday Telegraph that Rupe is "a very generous, caring family man... It's a difficult time for him. I've sent him my condolences and I haven't heard back." So Hugh, you're saying that Rupert's not that great at letter-writing?

* The Conservatives have ruled Westminster City Council, the capital's most powerful local authority, since it was created in 1964 (despite a spot of bad publicity during the Shirley Porter era). But their dominion may face a serious challenge at the 2014 London elections. In a story that sounds as if it was torn from a 17th-century history book, the Earl of Bradford and an alliance of churchmen are determined to topple the ruling Tories, and met to discuss the plot with local businessmen last week.

"What we are considering," the treasonous Earl told West End Extra in (presumably) hushed tones, "is putting forward independent candidates in every single ward... It's been a cosy little Conservative cartel for far too long." And what, precisely, sparked this revolt? Why, Sunday parking charges, of course! From December, it will cost up to a scandalous £4.80 per hour to park between 1pm and 6pm. The coalition of independents should appeal to natural Tory voters, though those with long memories may recall that Westminster Conservatives will do whatever it takes to cling to power.

* When James Palumbo – property heir, Ministry of Sound founder, ultra-high net worth individual – published his first novel, Tomas (a "biting satire" about how bankers are greedy and reality TV is a bit rubbish), in 2009, it was backed by an abnormally lavish ad campaign. Posters adorned every tube station, each rife with celebrity endorsements: "Amazing," claimed Stephen Fry, "the most energetic and surreal and extraordinary novel I have read for a very long time." Niall Ferguson said it was "grotesque yet gripping". Pete Tong described it as "American Psycho comes to Europe", while Noel Fielding claimed "the noises I made whilst reading [it] frightened people on the train" (which may or may not be a compliment).

Yet when the reviews appeared, they seemed to disagree. "A book with neither plot, point, intelligence, wit, originality nor elegance," wrote one broadsheet critic. The negative press obviously affected the author, who writes in the FT of having discussed it with a psychiatrist, who told him "not to worry about negative reviews – they are no more than people projecting their own negativity on to the author". Too true. Still, Palumbo's second effort, Tancredi (a "biting satire" about how reality TV is a bit rubbish, etc), arrives this week with rather less fanfare, and no obvious celebrity endorsements. Probably wise.

* Also jumping on the publishing bandwagon, this column can exclusively reveal – I had a space, and nobody else wanted to – is the ex-MP for Montgomeryshire, Lembit Opik. Poor Lem recently finished the race for the Lib Dem mayoral candidacy behind Brian Paddick (and London Assembly member Mike Tuffrey, and former Haringey councillor Brian Haley). But he's bouncing back by writing a book. Thankfully, his "people" tell me it's not a tell-all memoir, but an analysis of "what's gone wrong with the Lib Dems [and] the party leadership's costly decision to abandon the libertarian left. Lembit won't be holding back with his criticisms. There's already interest from publishers. It will be out in the new year." Look out, Clegg!

* "Puerile", "Absurd", "Mad", "Nonsensical", "Pathetic", "Lefty": some adjectives employed by the present Mayor in his Telegraph column to describe the BBC's "edict" that the terms AD and BC should be replaced by CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before Common Era) – as reported in the Mail on Sunday.

Except no such edict exists: bbc.co.uk/religion uses CE/BCE so as not to "offend or alienate non-Christians", but it is discretionary, rarely used elsewhere in the Corporation, and not a cross-organisation policy. Boris has dismissed the £250,000 he earns for his column each year as "chicken feed", saying it's "wholly reasonable" for him to write it in his spare time, as he does so "very fast". You'd never guess.