Elton John Diary: Lansley gets sweet on Oliver

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The Independent Online

Since June, when he criticised the Jamie Oliver approach to healthy eating in schools, Andrew Lansley has changed his tune (to "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word"? – Ed.). It was "counterproductive", said the Health Secretary, to be "constantly lecturing people". The net effect of Oliver's campaign, he claimed, "was the number of children eating school meals in many of these places didn't go up, it went down... children are actually spending more money outside school, buying snacks in local shops, instead of on school lunches." Lansley later sent a letter of apology to an incandescent Oliver, and yesterday, launching a White Paper on public health, said he "actually thought what Jamie Oliver did was terrific... We were very supportive of [The Ministry of Food]." Could've fooled me. Meanwhile, on a food theme, I can exclusively reveal that Elton John was keen on the executive editor's lemon-glazed pistachio cake, which he enjoyed with his hot beverage at morning conference. He also chose a chocolate-covered biscuit from the plate on the conference table. Reports suggest it was a "digestive, or possibly a hobnob".

* The top 10 names in GQ magazine's not-exactly-peer-reviewed list of The 100 Most Influential Men In Britain 2011 are enough to make you want to emigrate to Ireland: Gideon Osborne takes the top spot, followed by Dave, PM; Andy Coulson; Murdoch (R); William Hague; Sir Philip Green; Simon Cowell; Murdoch (J); Paul Dacre; and, in 10th place, Nick "29 Shags" Clegg (which is, presumably, some sort of joke). A ray of sunshine at No 19, however, where we find Elton John and partner David Furnish – up from 25 last year. "It's a great way to sell magazines," Elton told me when I was granted an audience yesterday, "but I wouldn't pay any attention to these lists. I'm always being asked to write my 100 favourite songs, it fries my brain to think about it." Boss, I could not agree more: what sort of list puts humble-as-humble-pie polymath Rory Stewart, MP (62) 10 places above Michael Gove (72)?

* Mandy is really a sensitive chap, says Hannah Rothschild, director of the Dark Lord's documentary The Real PM? "There is a particularly touching scene during which he weeps as he says goodbye to his staff," she tells The Lady. "He is even said to have cried in the loo at one recent screening of [the film]." On a related note, I'm told Elton stepped out of morning conference for his first bathroom break of the day at approximately 10.34am – just as the business editor was preparing to present his news list.

* Elton made an appearance in the Wikileaks dump of American diplomatic cables, one of which mentions his trip to Kazakhstan to perform at a birthday party for President Nazarbayev's son-in-law. But he's confident that's the last he'll read of himself in the documents. "I haven't fucked anyone in the American government," he reassured me. "No blow jobs in the Oval Office for me."

* Elton also had some kind words for a fellow victim of the leaks: Prince Andrew. Whatever the trade envoy said while visiting the other "–stan" that starts with a "K", Elton admires him "for standing by Sarah [Ferguson] the way he has." Contrary to reports, however, he won't perform at next year's royal nuptials . "I haven't met the princes since they were tiny," he explains. "Wouldn't it be nicer to see someone younger than me singing at the wedding?"

* Since he so quickly forswore his Mail on Sunday column when that paper's Lord Triesman sting put England's 2018 World Cup bid in jeopardy, this column awaits Gary Lineker's principled resignation from the BBC with mounting anticipation. I can exclusively reveal that Elton also backs the bid. "Having the World Cup in Qatar would be a joke," he told me. "I'd like to see it in England; we've the best stadiums for a start." (Including Vicarage Road, home to the exceedingly fine Watford FC.)

* Manic Monday may have been the busiest online shopping day of the year, but I can exclusively reveal that Elton bought his Christmas presents in the shops, on Monday, between the hours of 12.30 and 4pm. He even had time to stop for lunch at Dover Street Market, which serves his favourite tipple: ginger beer.


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