Diary: Yes, she's got the look – but she's certainly no Iron Lady


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The Independent Online

Louise Mensch, the Tory MP formerly known as the chick-lit novelist Louise Bagshawe, has had an avalanche of publicity, both good and bad, since agreeing to be interviewed for GQ magazine. In that interview, she cast herself as the new Margaret Thatcher and, in a piece illustrated by posed photographs,complained about how women MPs are judged on their looks.

The photographs seem to have gone like champagne to the head of the Labour MP Tom Watson, who yesterday told the London radio station LBC: "She says she can't understand why she's not been given a job, and neither can I. This woman is intelligent, she's successful in her own right, she's strong-willed, she's determined and dogged. She's sexy, she has everything."

As to Mensch, 40, being the new Lady Thatcher – I think not. For starters, her politics are too middle of the road. On her Twitter feed yesterday, Mensch, the MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire, condemned the US congressman Ron Paul, one of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, because his "newsletters were homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic".

Compare that with the previous day's blog post by the anti-EU, free marketer Tory MP Douglas Carswell, headed: "Iowa Caucus – why I hope Ron Paul triumphs" – and you can see why Mensch would never be the idol of the Tory right.

Her other drawback is that anyone who wants to operate at the top end of politics has to be very single-minded – obsessive even. There is no doubt that Mensch revels in being famous, but in the same GQ interview she gave a little away about what she would really most like to be famous for.

Asked which would mean more to her, being a cabinet minister or winning the Booker Prize, she replied: "I don't want the Booker Prize, so I'll take the cabinet minister. But if they gave me a choice between having a movie made and being a cabinet minister, I'd take the movie made."

What's in a name?

If you are mystified as to why people found it amusing that another Republican presidential contender, Rick Santorum did so well in the Iowa caucus, google his surname – but not when you are about to eat. He is one of the few living eponyms, an eponym being a person such as Laszlo Biro, whose name has entered the language. "Santorum" is not a word many of us would have occasion to use in our everyday lives, nor can its meaning be spelt out in a respectable newspaper such as this.

Champagne sales fizz

On a "we are all in it together" note, the Comité Interprofessionel des Vins de Champagne has just reported that champagne sales worldwide are bubbling again after flattening at the start of the banking crisis. The CIVC, the industry body which represents Champagne growers and houses, reckons that 330 million bottles were sold in 2011 – up 3 per cent on 2010 but still below the 2007 peak of 339 million bottles. The French are also pleased to note that trade with their biggest European export market, Britain, is holding steady.

Stage-hands earn a round of applause

When you go to see a stage show like Oliver! on tour with large numbers of children in the cast, it does make you wonder who is in charge of making sure the kids are properly looked after and have somewhere safe to go after the curtain falls.

The answer, in a great many cases is Heather Miller, who has worked for 17 years as a children's chaperone for West End theatres. Today she receives an Unsung Hero award from The Stage magazine, along with Edwin Shaw, who ran the London Palladium's box office for 35 years.

Also honoured is Frances Coyle, who is retiring at the age of 82 from the Glasgow Citizens Theatre, where she has worked since 1967 without, it is said, ever taking a day off sick.

Opik's back stalking corridors of power

Political life has been that much duller since the attention-seeking former Liberal Democrat MP, Lembit Opik, narrowly lost the Montgomeryshire seat he had held for 13 years to a Tory, Glyn Davies, in 2010.

But all is not lost. Opik is "sounding out" local party members about the possibility of standing as their candidate again. He has been on a losing streak since 2010, as viewers of I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! will recall. Even if he gets the nomination, it will be a hard task for a Liberal Democrat to regain the Welsh constituency, because it has been made all the more complicated by extensive boundary changes. But he at least would bring a recognisable face to the contest.

"This is a private political matter and it wouldn't be right to discuss this any more through the media at this stage," says Opik.