Diary: Throwing the book at Blair

The preparations for Tony Blair's book signing at Waterstone's Piccadilly sounded a tad over the top when they were announced yesterday morning. The former PM will sign copies of his memoir,
A Journey, on 8 September, reported
The Bookseller. However: "Customers cannot be photographed with Blair, there will be no personal dedications and all bags, backpacks and briefcases must be checked in, along with cameras and mobile phones... Blair will sign a maximum of two books per customer." The security rigmarole seemed slightly more salient by the afternoon, however, when the Stop The War Coalition set up a Facebook page calling on its members to stage a "mass protest" at the event, and announced plans to arrest Blair for alleged war crimes. "We will be asking people to boycott Waterstone's completely and shut the chain of shops down if this event goes ahead," warned activist Andrew Burgin. Mr Burgin also works as a second-hand bookseller, but far be it from me to suggest he might have an ulterior motive.

* Channel Five's staff were shocked to learn the extent of the cuts under their new owner, Richard Desmond, yesterday. But Desmond's plans for synergies with his other Northern and Shell media holdings might come as less of a surprise. A rumour reaches me that since last month's takeover, the roster of guest experts appearing on Five News bulletins has featured rather more writers from the Daily Express, Daily Star and OK! magazine. Sadly, verifying this tale would involve watching more footage of Five News than I care to commit myself to. But the programme's hosts seem happy enough with their new owner. Anchor Matt Barbet insisted to the Star last month: "It's exciting the channel has a new owner prepared to invest in it and the continuing success of shows like Five News."

* Over at the BBC, staff are similarly disgruntled with their boss. On Monday, as director-general Mark Thompson prepared to discuss controversial changes to the corporation's pension scheme on the Gateway internal TV network, a test card appeared onscreen with the caption: "Mark Thompson pensions = screw you."

* Frank Skinner has pulled out of his planned run on the Edinburgh Fringe, just days before his show was due to begin. Skinner was booked to host a series of lunchtime "talk shows" with fellow comedians at the Assembly Rooms, a venue that has given many Fringe stars a start over its 30-year history.

* After Skinner pulled out on Monday, yesterday's first instalment was hosted instead by Stephen K Amos. "It's a great shame about The Talk Show," said Skinner in a statement. "My bags were packed, my train ticket was in my pocket, and I was very excited about the whole thing. It became apparent there were some brilliant people lined up but way too many gaps." Were confirmed appearances from Alan Cumming, Clive Anderson, Alistair McGowan, Mel Smith, Steven Berkoff, Omid Djalili, Jenny Eclair, Jo Brand, Julian Clary, Barry Cryer and Lee Mack insufficient for him?

* And you thought collectors of Nazi memorabilia were odd. George Ridgeon, a collector of Churchill souvenirs, has paid £10,000 to purchase the wartime Prime Minister's false teeth. Ridgeon, 66, told the Gloucester Citizen that he wanted to reunite the great man's dentures with another item in his collection: the microphone that Churchill used to announce the end of the war in Europe on 8 May, 1945.

"I thought it would be great to combine the microphone that declared war was over with the teeth," he explained.

* Liz Jones is selling her rural home, the subject of her weekly column and new book The Exmoor Files. I wonder whether her estate agent will be willing to fight for the £1.9m asking price, though, after she recently described members of the profession as "cack-handed morons."

"I need a smaller house for me and more land for my animals," Jones explained to the London Evening Standard. Unfortunately, her current property only came with 47 acres.

highstreetken@independent.co.uk

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