Diary: One consolation for imprisoned Saif – he's still a doctor


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The Independent Online

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the dictator's son, faces a bleak future in his Libyan prison, with little hope of a visit from any of the politicians or academics who courted him while his father was in power.

But he has one consolation. So far as British academia is concerned, he is still entitled to call himself Dr Gaddafi. Why, is something we do not know, though the Tory MP Robert Halfon hopes to find out. Colleagues at London University investigated the decision by the LSE to award Gaddafi Jnr a PhD.

Their report is not being published, but we know that they concluded that the doctorate was in order. Mr Halfon, whose grandfather was driven out of Libya, is slapping in a Freedom of Information request to have the report released.

"Most people find it morally abhorrent that he was awarded a PhD," he said. "This is not a matter of procedure, it's an ethical issue."

The last remnants of Empire

Answering a question from the bulldog-loving Tory MP Andrew Rosindell this week, David Cameron gave a "guarantee" that the Government will "protect, defend and cherish" the 16 overseas territories that are the last remnants of the British Empire. That could be an expensive promise. The garrison on the Falkland Islands alone costs around £70m a year, and some of the others would be yet more expensive to patrol, if in fact our Government was defending them, which it is not.

Pitcairn Island, for example, a lump of organic rock sticking out of the Pacific Ocean, inhabited by about 50 descendants of the nine mutineers from the crew of the Bounty and their Tahitian wives. Though the Ministry of Defence has a responsibility to guard the islands, no Royal Navy ship has visited it since September 2000. But, given that the island is 3,300 miles from New Zealand and over 4,000 miles from America, the risk of it being attacked is not that great.

Mystery that doesn't fade away

It is the fate of ageing rock stars to be famous for what they did before they were 25. Guitarist Mick Taylor, 62, joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in his teens, and the Rolling Stones when he was 20, but resigned in 1974, never fully explaining why. "Why did I leave? I can't tell you. Not now. All I can tell you is that at the time it was all put down to artistic differences – but that was only half of it," he has told the January edition of Mojo magazine.

In the same issue that rather more durable Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards, describes life after writing an autobiography that has been named Book of the Year. "Before, it was always, 'Oh, that old junkie that just does rock'n'roll.' I think they were a little surprised to discover I could actually write. But that's cool," he said. I own a hardback copy of his autobiography, kindly given to me as a Christmas present, yet to me, he is now and forever "that old junkie who does rock'n'roll".

Vanity costs a little more

Commissioning a portrait of John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, and a coat of arms was denounced as a "vanity" project when it was said that it had cost the taxpayer £37,000. But yesterday it emerged that officials had overlooked two items from "other budgets" which meant that the exercise cost £44,000. "The Speaker was not aware these costs were not included in the figures provided and in the interests of transparency wanted this clarification published as soon as the error was recognised," a spokeswoman said.

An intriguing meeting of minds

A meeting at which it would have been fun to be a fly on the wall was scheduled yesterday evening in Kensington, where Ed Miliband had arranged a chinwag with Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail.