Diary: Piers bigs up American appeal

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The Independent Online

There goes Piers Morgan again, overstating the size of something modestly proportioned. Morgan tells Radio Times: "They reckon 3-400 million watch [Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN] every night." His interviewer consulted "Them" – a CNN spokesman – who "clarified that '300m is a potential nightly audience' globally". So that potential audience includes me, even though I've never watched it (except for the silliest bits, on YouTube). Still, Morgan won't mind me saying so, as he claims to miss the irreverence of the British. When he was last in the UK, shopping at Boots in Kensington (I know it well), the cashier pointed over his shoulder at a group of old ladies and asked, "Is that your fan club?", then burst out laughing. "And I thought, that would never happen in America."

* The Prime Minister's low-cost trip to Spain for his wife's 40th birthday has got Conservative staffers chuckling, I'm told, about the rather less austere travel arrangements of the Chancellor. George (né Gideon) Osborne famously spent the new year on a skiing trip to the Swiss resort of Klosters, costing him and his family an estimated £11,000. Some junior Tory staffers suggest he could still get away with another skiing trip – as long as it was to Sheffield's popular dry-skiing centre, Ski Village, and on condition that he took Oliver Letwin with him on a "contrition tour" of the city. "The general feeling is he'd be able to get away with skiing in Scotland, but anything further just isn't going to look good," a Tory insider tells me.

* In fairness to poor Gideon, he does tend to offset his travel costs by staying with friends. In Klosters, for example, he holed up at a modest chalet owned by millionaire fund manager, Caspar Rock. And when he visited Corfu in 2008, you'll recall, he was there as the guest of his Bullingdon chum, banking scionNat Rothschild.

* Travelling economy class solely for the sake of appearances certainly seems to irk Alan Yentob, as this column noted yesterday. But senior BBC staff are far from the only ones to suffer the tyranny of "public perception". Last year, the PM boasted that he'd made ambassadors and other top diplomats fly economy class. And yesterday an email from Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Work and Pensions, was leaked to the Political Scrapbook blog, in which he informed his civil servants that they, too, were second-class citizens – even if a first-class ticket turned out to be cheaper. "Such occasions are rare and generally arise if you are booking close to your departure date," Devereux suggested. "Even if you are booking at least a week in advance and first class is still cheaper, you are still required to purchase the standard ticket; it is a matter of public perception and overall, a first-class ban will save the department a significant amount." Well, good PR doesn't come cheap.

* With doctors and nurses facing the chop across the country, it's surely heartening to learn that the Commons is keeping its medical staff. The Speaker, Señor John Bercow, yesterday sent MPs a letter reminding them of the existence of the Commons's two part-time doctors and an occupational health nurse, to assist "Members who run into medical difficulties, especially with mental health and alcohol-related issues." Now that really is the frontline.

* Writer-director Peter Kosminsky has enjoyed plenty of praise for The Promise, his very fine four-part drama about the Israel/Palestine conflict, shown recently on Channel Four. Kosminsky's award-winning work has also covered the war in Bosnia, the death of David Kelly, and the failings of Britain's anti-terrorism policies. Where to now? Well, I'm reliably informed that Kosminsky's next project will concern none other than Nelson Mandela. Further details are as yet unforthcoming (he wasn't answering the phone yesterday), but given his history of hard-hitting and controversial dramas, it's liable to be a lot more interesting than Invictus.