For Tony Blair's 50th birthday, the BBC made a 50-minute tribute, and Cilla Black sang a throaty "Happy Birthday". But there'll be no such frivolity tomorrow, when the ex-PM turns 60. I can reveal that the ever-youthful warmonger is leaving the country to spend time in the Middle East "on envoy work". He may style his look on Simon Cowell these days, but he won't be kicking back with a magnum of Cristal in the Jacuzzi, and there is to be no party. In 2003, Tony flew to Dublin for talks with Bertie Ahern and delivered a speech to the Newspaper Society. The good news this time is he won't be alone: Cherie is flying out to the Middle East to be with him. Just don't ask what she's packing.
School for thought
John Le Carré's spy thrillers explore the theme of loyalty, and to whom or what we owe it. But the 81-year-old novelist has turned his back on his own tribe, and is calling for the abolition of public schools. Le Carré was educated at Sherborne, and taught briefly at Eton. In an interview with The New York Times, he says they should be scrapped "to make the best teaching resources open to all". Quite right. But shouldn't he have admitted to his own parental choices first? He sent his fourth son, the successful novelist Nick Harkaway, to the independent University College School in north London. Fees are £5,525 per term.
Suitable dame for a drill
Crossrail is asking members of the public to suggest names they can give to two boring machines. No, not as in yawn-inducing, but as in "used for drilling". They have already named six machines, which have been steadily boring away to make a new rail link. But two remain unnamed. According to the (somewhat sexist) rules, only women's names are wanted. "The naming after women is a long-held tunnelling tradition," says a statement. Now, they are asking the public to nominate its "modern day heroes and inspirational women". One wag has suggested Margaret Thatcher. "After all, there was something insistently drilling about her," he says. "And some would argue she undermined our foundations." The deadline is 31 May.
Making money out of Maggie
Iain Dale was once a tour de force of the Tory blogosphere, up there with Guido Fawkes and Tim Montgomerie. But some are beginning to wonder if he is quite as influential as he was. His understanding of Thatcherism certainly seems a little sketchy – in his latest blog, he thunders: "Are there no depths to which some people won't lower themselves? Yesterday I was alerted to the fact that somebody had put a Thatcher funeral Order of Service on eBay. They had put a reserve of £77 on it. Simply appalling." As most people know, Thatcher championed the spirit of enterprise, and would be delighted that her funeral has become a source of wealth. Bidding has been brisk, and last night it had reached an impressive £310 for a lot which includes an invitation, an order of service and a copy of that day's Evening Standard. I'm told Dale has become obsessed with this column, so no doubt he will be reading. Anything else you need clearing up Iain, just ask!
With this name I thee wed...
A swift glance at yesterday's Court Circular suggested that The Daily Telegraph had a major scoop on its hands – the engagement of Justin Bieber. Closer inspection revealed that the marriage was announced of Justin Moss, of Berkshire, to Natalie Bieber, of Hampshire. Julian Fellowes has already set a precedent for taking your wife's name (in his case, with the intention to preserve the memory of his wife's great-great-uncle, Earl Kitchener – he is now Julian Kitchener-Fellowes). Wouldn't Justin and Natalie have fun being Biebers?
Chew on that, IDS
Eccentric peer Lord Selsdon has launched a war against chewing gum, and is proposing a new law to clamp down on "gum pollution". The 75-year-old hereditary peer has drawn up an amendment to the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act which will be introduced to Parliament on 14 May. He wants to introduce £100 fines for people who drop gum. During his researches, the baron has become something of an expert, discovering that globs of freshly spat gum are known as "gum turds". The Commons has its share of chewers: at PMQs, Iain Duncan Smith can often be seen masticating furiously like Sir Alex Ferguson. There aren't so many offenders in the Lords; but then, some members have enough trouble getting through the cauliflower cheese at lunch.
Eagle eyes rock'n'roll
Rock'n'roll fans frequently complain that bands such as Kiss, Black Sabbath and Yes have been left out of the Hall of Fame, housed in Cleveland, Ohio. Now, the Eagles have weighed in, and tell me the museum's decisions are "very political". Although the group has been included in the exclusive club since 1998, lead singer Don Henley says there is a glaring omission. "I was there last week and find it a travesty that the great Linda Ronstadt – who actually brought the early members of the Eagles together – is not in it," he tells me. "The Hall of Fame is a peculiar, perplexing organisation, and because of some sanctimonious, calcified opinions about what is considered 'rock'n'roll', she's not in there. If anyone should be, she should." Henley was in Britain to launch a documentary, The History of the Eagles, which will be shown on BBC2 next month. The "Hotel California" crooners are planning a world tour, and could be welcoming a new band member. "We start rehearsals next month," Henley says. "My 15-year-old son can play the solos from 'Hotel California', so watch out!"
The Amish sign for intercourse
A correspondent to The Economist says that the Amish are not as prudish as all that. Mr Jonathan Rose writes: "From the heart of Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, my mother-in-law reports that the book most frequently borrowed from her retirement home library is Fifty Shades of Grey (the large-print edition)." It's a little-known fact that two of America's most frequently photographed road signs are of settlements in Amish Country, called Blue Ball and, ahem, Intercourse. Makes Wetwang in Yorkshire – of which the late Richard Whiteley was mayor – seem positively provincial.
The runway bride
Just as well Keira Knightley and James Righton "aren't big-wedding types", as the actress has claimed. The 28-year-old Anna Karenina star kept things simple with a Chanel number for her not-very-secret nuptials in Provence yesterday. Righton, 29, singer with the Klaxons, wore a blue suit, not that anyone cares about his wardrobe. Sienna Miller and Alexa Chung are thought to have been guests. Everyone keeps insisting it was "low key". To prove the point, the bride and groom were driven away in a Renault Clio.