Diary: Piers: I'm through with Hugh

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The Independent Online

As a one-time golfing chum of Hugh Grant, the celebrated swordsman and saviour of celebrity privacy, I was naturally overjoyed to hear him phoning this very office to speak with our honoured guest, the Radio 5 Live presenter Richard Bacon, during his broadcast from The Independent this week.

Piers Morgan, it turns out, was less enamoured of the exchange, in which Hugh, the old dog, argued: "We don't need [tabloid newspapers], we don't want them and the sooner they go out of business the better." Morgan, for his part, tweeted that he was "listening to Bishop Hugh Grant telling Richard Bacon he wants popular newspapers eradicated".

"I feel the same about his crap movies," he said. "Hugh Grant is now banned, in perpetuity, from Piers Morgan Tonight and Piers Morgan's Life Stories. And anything else I ever do. Tedious little man."

Given Morgan's past as a tabloid newspaper editor, I cannot imagine the news will come as much of a blow to dear Hugh. And frankly, once you've been on Radio 5 Live with Richard Bacon, the only way is down.

* Dapper Dan Stevens, who plays middle-class Matthew Crawley in the Bafta-nominated Downton Abbey, has (bless him) been in touch to do a bit of personal publicity. "A rivalry is brewing between Downton and The Only Way is Essex," he emails. "Both are up for the Bafta YouTube Audience Award on Sunday [the public can vote at youtube.com/baftaonline until noon this Friday], and both have been interviewed on the Daybreak sofa this week." On Monday, he explains, common-as-muck Joey Essex asked Chiles and Bleakley, "What's Downton Abbey?" Yesterday, young Stevens feigned ignorance of "The Only Way is Wessex", and vowed to change his name to "Danny Downton" if his team lost. He was then presented with a T-shirt for his daughter that read "The Only Way is Downton". Personally, I think it would look rather fetching on his co-star Hugh Bonneville.

* Still no love lost between Ben Collins, the erstwhile Stig, and his former employers at Top Gear, I note. Jeremy Clarkson branded Collins "greedy" for having exposed himself as the man beneath the white helmet. "I laughed out loud," Collins tells Car magazine. "That's brash hypocrisy. It's a pretty silly comment; anyone who knows about the man saying it would think it was aimed in the wrong direction." Asked to describe his former co-star in a word, Collins says of Clarkson (who probably has more pressing things to worry about these days): "Hmmmm. Loud. No... insecure."

* Cantankerous political commentator and singer-songwriter, Morrissey (né Smith), has committed to print some more of his compelling thoughts on the politics of the near East. As this column reported, at the beginning of this month he accused the BBC of "Iranian censorship" after the corporation had the temerity to edit the interview he had generously granted to Radio 4's Front Row. In the same statement, he asked the arresting question: "Is this Syria?? [sic]". (He felt that coverage of the royal wedding had reinforced the idea that "What you achieve in life means nothing compared to what you are born into.") Now, to mark the occasion of the Queen's visit to Ireland, he has penned an op-ed for Dublin's Hot Press, telling readers: "For a broad historical view of what the Queen is and how she 'rules', examine Gaddafi or Mubarak, and see if you can spot any difference." Well, she looks better than Gaddafi in a dress, for starters.

* Sadly, the Queen's visit to Ireland left her unable to attend the first night of a West End production of The Prisoner of Windsor at the Leicester Square Theatre. In the play, Prince William flees the country, unable to cope with his secret vocal coaching sessions. Happily, a replacement is found in the form of a palace gardener, who turns out to be a distant Romanian relative of the Windsors, and the spitting image of the Prince. The actor tasked with this difficult role is one John Sheerman, who happens to be the son of Huddersfield MP, Barry Sheerman. Much to his father's dismay, I'm sure, John's acting CV also includes a stint playing a Conservative MP. Those familiar with Sheerman Snr's Bafta-worthy performances as chairman of the Education Select Committee could be forgiven for thinking that he, too, might be partial to the whiff of grease paint.