The late Lucian Freud famously dined at the Wolseley almost every night, at a corner table, which staff decorated with a black cloth and a single candle as news of the artist's death was announced last week. But now it's back to business as usual. And who should be spotted sitting at the great man's table on Monday evening? None other than Dale Winton. I trust this is not a permanent arrangement.
* Phone hacking affects some of the largest institutions in British public life: the press, parliament and police have been rocked to their cores while, in the Cotswolds, residents are beside themselves (with shock and/or glee) to find that the Chipping Norton set is not the unassailable edifice of smug that they once imagined. Last weekend's Sunday Times dragged yet another fêted public figure into the scandal: cheesemaker and bassist Alex James, formerly of this parish, and now of Kingham, Oxon. James's interview was printed alongside the column of his real-life neighbour, Jeremy Clarkson, chronicler and keystone of the CNS, who has revealed that James's children are regular patrons of his swimming pool. Confronted with the proof of his CNS membership, James "hides his face under his famous fringe [and] emits a weary sigh". Then, in a transparent attempt to deflect attention, he casts aspersions on the editor of The Guardian, a sworn enemy of some leading Chipping Norton settees. "I sold Alan Rusbridger some cheese in [Daylesford Organic]," James claims: a damning allegation, which Rusbridger has so far failed to deny.
* The Catholic Church is famed for forgiving even the most odious crimes, especially if the perpetrators are priests, or generous donors. But presiding over a culture of phone hacking (however inadvertently) may be a sin too far, for relations between the Murdoch family and the church continue to deteriorate. As this column has already reported, rumours are rife that Rupe's papal knighthood may be under review. Murdoch père (known as "the Knight Commander of St Gregory" to his confessors) received the honour in 1998 after giving an unspecified sum to a church education fund. He later donated £6.2m to a Los Angeles cathedral. Now, Catholic journal The Tablet has called for the Roman Catholic Church in Britain to return the £100,000 that James Murdoch contributed to the cost of the Pope's UK holiday last September. And even the docile CofE has chipped in: the Archbishop of Canterbury's ex-press secretary, George Pitcher, reveals that he had his ear chewed off by News International supremo Will Lewis when a group of bishops opposed Murdoch's now-abandoned BSkyB bid. What an unholy mess!
* Jeremy Hunt seemed flustered when he finally faced the House on the topic of phonehackgate. What could have distracted the Media Secretary from his dept's first order of business? Unexpectedly: football. Those who heard the frequently-misspelled Hunt's gaffe about Hillsborough and hooliganism may be surprised to learn that he's been training to become a qualified referee. Until recently, the Sports Secretary (he does that too) didn't even know the offside rule. However, Hunt informs Total Politics that he achieved a mark of 31 (from 35) on his recent theory test. And as for the practical element of the training, he says, "I'm hoping I might ref a few matches in my constituency." Hunt is the MP for South West Surrey, which covers the charming non-football towns of Farnham, Godalming and Haslemere. Surely, if he wants to get a real taste of the game, he should referee a match in, say, Liverpool?
* With excitement abating over my now-defunct phone-hacking film, starring Todd Carty as Andy Coulson, it may be time to pull an old project from the bottom drawer. Yesterday Ed Balls informed Sky News that he'd challenged his rival, George (né Gideon) Osborne, to an hour-long TV debate later this year. This would be perfect material for my notional joint biopic of the pair, provisionally entitled A Cock and Balls. Inspired by the success of The King's Speech, it concerns each man's struggle to overcome a debilitating speech impediment – Balls a stammer, Gideon a squeak – and rise to the top of their parties. With Gideon's reputation hanging in the balance (again), a debate could make a gripping climax.Reuse content