Diary: The man who ditched Lembit

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The Independent Online

A glancing encounter with scandal for Tim Farron, Lib Dem party president: blogger Guido Fawkes reveals that he recently indulged in a first-class train ticket (though, admittedly, at the ultra-cheap advance rate). Despite this trifling matter for Ipsa, Farron is yet to fall victim to the Curse of Lembit. Glamour model-bothering Lembit Opik, as this column has previously noted, came out in staunch support of Charles Kennedy, Mark Oaten, Simon Hughes and David Laws, soon before each of them resigned either their jobs or their leadership candidacies. Until last year, Farron rented a room in the south London shag-pad that Lembit likes to call home. Following his flatmate's electoral drubbing and subsequent spiral into stand-up comedy, however, the upwardly mobile Farron smartly re-located.

Despite Lembit's indignation at the loss of rent, I'm assured the arrangement has proved healthy for both halves of this odd couple. Lembit has moved in his girlfriend, drama student Merily McGivern, while Farron has skillfully distanced himself from his old friend and harbinger of certain doom.

* Given the invaluable contributions he has already made to this column, I'd be very sad to see the back of No 10's spanking new spin supremo, Craig Oliver. That said, his clumsy briefings on the Duke of York and his apparent inability to arrive at work on time bode rather badly for the poor fellow's future. They're not even, dare I say it, his first rookie mistakes. Last week, Oliver reportedly declined to furnish a senior lobby hack with his mobile number, suggesting that he contact him via the Downing Street switchboard instead. Then, at this weekend's Conservative spring conference, he let telephoto-lens specialist Steve Back snap him clutching his private notes for the PM's speech. You'd think someone might advise him on how to deal with the press. But then, that's really meant to be his job.



* Howard Davies, director of the LSE, may have resigned last week over his links with the Libyan regime, but there's one gig he won't be losing: his column in Management Today. The magazine's editor, Matthew Gwyther, told this weekend's Names Not Numbers symposium in Portmeirion that Davies "rather mournfully emailed me to say I won't be interested in a column about his crocuses and stray chickens at his house in Dorset". But Gwyther was having none of it. "I'm 100 per cent behind [Howard]," he told me after his talk. "He's one of the most gifted writers I have been privileged to edit. He's a journalist manqué; if he hadn't been a great civil servant he would have been a fantastic hack. I'm sure he has another big job left in him – he's only 60, fit and interested in the world. We haven't seen the last of him."



* Still, mud can stick, as the "cash for honours" peer Lord Levy would attest. Levy's 2008 memoir A Question of Honour reveals that he was the first of Tony Blair's chums to make nice with the unsavoury Saif Gaddafi, whom he found "open, articulate and very well informed" when they met at the Dorchester Hotel. Not long afterwards, at Levy's invitation, Gaddafi Jnr joined him and Nigel Sheinwald (now ambassador to the US) for a slap-up lunch at the House of Lords.

Last week this column reminded readers of fashion's historic associations with Nazism. This week, a redemptive tale from the same style conglomerate that brought you John Galliano and the Anti-Semitic Rant: LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which already counts Christian Dior among its brands, has added Italian jewellers Bulgari to its portfolio. During the War, Constantino Bulgari (son of the founder, Sotirio) and his wife hid three Jewish women at their home in Rome, an act for which they were awarded the title of "Righteous Among the Nations" in Israel in 2003.



* A hefty cash windfall still awaits The King's Speech stars Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush. But these fruits of the film's wild success will not, alas, be enjoyed by supporting actors such as Anthony Andrews, who played Stanley Baldwin. "I'm afraid I was paid a set fee," Andrews laments. "I wish I'd done what Alec Guinness did with Star Wars. He waived his fee and took a percentage." When George Lucas called Guinness to ask if he'd like some financial advice, the actor reportedly replied, "No, thank you, George. I have six million pounds on deposit in my Post Office account."

highstreetken@independent.co.uk

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