Diary: Starkey caught in Mouse trap

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The Independent Online

Readers keen to confront David Starkey about the views he espoused on Friday's Newsnight could do worse than book a seat for his afternoon speaking engagement on 11 September, part of the Thames Festival.

Starkey's historical talk will take place on board the PS Elizabethan paddle steamer, meaning he'll be a captive to his critics. I imagine, given the cramped quarters, that he will also be present to watch his warm-up act, the writers of the popular children's TV character "Rastamouse", a Caribbean rodent detective.

According to the event programme, families can "Come an' meet da creators of Rastamouse on a crucial cruise boat pon da Thames... Get ready to rocksteady an' nice up da place! Irie man!" Starkey no doubt considers this "Jamaican patois" to be "wholly false", and so on. But Rastamouse's creators say the series demonstrates "how people can get on and solve problems through understanding, love and respect.

Rastamouse's ethos is to 'make a bad ting good', to teach right from wrong, and help wrong-doers redeem themselves from their mistakes." Wholly admirable, I'd say.

* As this column noted not 48 hours ago, Ed Miliband's venue of choice for his post-riot address was his own alma mater, Haverstock school in north London: a place with a chequered past. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, spoke of society's "slow-motion moral collapse", among other things, from a youth centre in his own leafy Oxfordshire constituency. Indeed, he heaped praise on said youth centre, Base 33, for its Queen's Award-winning work with young people. "It is an inspiring example of what can be done in our communities," he said. What he didn't mention is that Base 33 was in danger of closure due to lack of funding just a month ago, after public donations nosedived by 50 per cent. Thanks to two local newspaper campaigns, the charity-run centre has since raised £10,000, but it needs £30,000 a year to stay afloat. Perhaps Dave could arrange something.

* Conservative headquarters, this column has learnt, is alive with amusement at news of an unfamiliar sight: that of the Chancellor running. A sweaty George (né Gideon) Osborne was, I'm told, spotted puffing and panting his way through St James's Park just last weekend. Apparently this was not the first time. The PM often extols the virtues of a good jog to his chum, and even called in the cavalry (aka leading personal trainer Matt Roberts) in his own war against flab. But Gideon has, until recently, been too busy poring over his red box to bother with a fitness regime. Turning 40, however, has obviously convinced him that it's time to tackle the looming middle-aged spread. Chop-chop, Chancellor! Those muffin-tops won't burn themselves!

* So Sally Bercow, comely spouse of Señor John, the Cuban-heeled Speaker of the nation's second-most-televised House, is joining the cast of Celebrity Big Brother: the Richard Desmond Years. To combat the inevitable barrage of confected criticism as she gets drunk, gets naked and/or laps milk from the cupped hands of her fellow contestants, Mrs Bercow has employed the celebrity publicist Max Clifford. I'm happy to see that even if she can't take politics seriously (not necessarily a bad thing), then at least she is tackling celebrity with a straight face. As this column revealed in February, Sally started her life in the spotlight with the showbiz agency ASM Damage, which put her in the company of such luminaries as Dane Bowers, Lisa Maffia and Aggro Santos (nope, me neither). Signing with Max, however, catapults her into a different league, alongside current and former Clifford clients "Dr" Gillian McKeith PhD, Kerry Katona and "media whore" Ms Helen Wood.

* Finally, congratulations to Kay "Hurley" Burley – soft-porn novelist, ice dancer and Sky News presenter – on what appears to be a jolly successful facelift operation: a gift to herself, reports the Mirror, following her recent 50th birthday. Although she said recently that she prefers commentators not to focus on her appearance, Ms Burley reportedly informed her Sky colleagues in a memo yesterday that she doesn't "want anyone to feel awkward or embarrassed talking to me about today's Daily Mirror. I'm not." Here's to a record-breaking fourth triumph in the annual What Satellite TV "Most Desirable Woman on TV" contest.