Diary: Will Marr make up for his past indiscretions?


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As we eagerly await the start on Monday of Andrew Marr's three-part BBC1 series The Diamond Queen, in honour of Her Majesty's 60 years on the throne, I hope he does not poop the party by giving airtime to one particular pundit. I mean the one who, in 1995, wrote these insulting words about the monarch's nearest and dearest: "Here is not the place to recount in full or even full summary the sordid and self-destructive exhibitionism of the younger air-headed Windsors, the sexual secrets spilled out, the marital misery publicised, the open acknowledgement of betrayal and bed-hopping..."

"Where will this process end," the same pundit asked. "In a republic? The idea is gaining ground ... A visceral dislike of the whole monarchical business is widespread among younger voters..."

I quote from pages 232 and 233 of Ruling Britannia: The Failure and Future of British Democracy, by Andrew Marr.

Traditional Tories fail to see sense

A number of backbench Tory MPs from marginal seats, such as Anna Soubry from Broxtowe and Jessica Lee from Erewash, have got together this month to form a pressure group, the 301 Group, to promote the kind of Conservatism that talks more about "modern" issues such as the environment than about the traditional battle hymns – Europe and immigration. The initiative has annoyed some on the Tory right. It would have annoyed them more if the group had stuck to its original choice of name. They were going to call themselves "Sensible Tories".


Agutter likes a man rough and ready

David Cameron is too smooth and unruffled, says Jenny Agutter, of Railway Children fame. When asked the standard question "who would you change channel to avoid?" for an interview in next week's Radio Times, the actress, pictured, 59, replies: "Our Prime Minister. It's just that thing of seeing someone who doesn't seem to belong to the world they're talking about ... I want a man with such a difficult job to look a bit more tired and rough."


£1,100 claim for 23-minute meeting

Tory councillors in Crawley, West Sussex, feared that the old system that allowed them to claim an allowance for each minute of attendance at council meetings was an incentive to hold pointless meetings – so they brought in flat-rate allowances instead.

This worked out rather well for Cllr Jennifer Millar-Smith, the wife of Crawley's MP Henry Smith. She took the chair of the parking enforcement scrutiny panel, which was set up to deal with inconsiderate parking but met only once, last November, before being wound up. Mrs Millar-Smith's flat-rate payment for that 23-minute meeting was £1,133.

"Jennifer is a hard-working councillor and she was extremely efficient with this panel in getting the work done," the council leader, Bob Lanzer, told This Is Sussex.


Horsey parents whip Blunkett into shape

Listeners to yesterday's Today programme on BBC Radio 4 heard a spirited defence of vocational qualifications from the former Education Secretary, David Blunkett. He warned against a "wholesale trashing" of vocational subjects and, as for the course in horse training mentioned several times during the programme, Mr Blunkett speculated that it was available only to the over-16s, but invited listeners to correct him if he was wrong. "Let's not make things up," were his final words.

But oh dear, Mr Blunkett had inadvertently made up that bit about horse training – a course which some schools teach from age 14 upwards. Numerous parents rang the BBC to say it was a valuable course. Mr Blunkett came back on to say: "Whoops, sorry about that – that'll teach me."