The Feral Beast: Dave's in a fizz, splashed cash at the Beeb, and a nasty shock for Godfrey Bloom
Sunday 08 September 2013
His days with the Bollinger-swilling Bullingdon Club are the ones David Cameron would most like us to forget. So the PM must be less than thrilled that one of his oldest friends, Peter Czernin, is making a film about the infamous drinking club, timed for release just before the election. Czernin, heir to the Howard de Walden millions, was Dave's first flatmate in London. He is now a film producer, whose hits include The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. His latest project is Posh, a film adaptation of Laura Wade's hit stage play. The film, scheduled for release next year, features rising stars Max Irons, Freddie Fox and Douglas Booth as members of the Riot Club, a thinly veiled parody of the "Buller". The movie has already caused some controversy after winning a £1m grant from the British Film Council. Tory MPs were incensed that taxpayers' money should be used to fund a film that will clearly embarrass the Prime Minister. "This looks like revenge for George Osborne cutting film-industry subsidies," snorted Tory MP Angie Bray. Let's hope Pete and Dave can stay on speakers.
What a corking bash!
Apropos my recent item about the wedding this weekend of Alice Sheffield, younger sister of Samantha Cameron, an anecdote reaches me about other Sheffield nuptials. When, two years ago, Sam Cam's youngest sister, Lucy, got married, the wine flowed merrily, helped by the fact it was of the screw-top variety. Other than on two tables: the one belonging to Sir Reggie Sheffield, father of the bride, and the one where the Prime Minister was sitting. I'm told they were served a rather superior claret, with proper old-fashioned corks and everything. Just as well – we don't see Dave as a screw-top kind of guy.
Where did it all go, Mark?
Mark Thompson can expect a roasting when he comes before a Commons public accounts committee tomorrow, over the splurging of cash to outgoing BBC execs during his time at the helm. MPs curious to know what sort of a fellow he is could do worse than read Greg Dyke's autobiography of 2004. It reveals: "Michael Grade and Mark [Thompson] are people who will not fear... taking calculated risks, even when their decisions are unlikely to be unpopular with politicians". Hmm. And this: "Mark had moved around the BBC a lot: as he openly jokes, he never stayed anywhere long enough to be found out". And what's this? Writing about Thompson's Panorama coup exposing Maxwell's "Spot the Ball" fraud, Dyke says: "In 2002... I pointed out that the programme hadn't spotted that Maxwell had also stolen the Mirror pension fund." So lots of money goes missing and Thompson doesn't notice … fancy!
Thompson's a holy terror
Lord Patten, as chairman of the BBC Trust, is also embroiled in the BBC pay scandal. He has no supporter in Mark Thompson, who has accused him of "fundamentally misleading" Parliament, by claiming not to have known about the extent of the pay-offs. While the sight of two colleagues turning on each other is unedifying, interestingly, they are both Roman Catholics. But, as a fellow Catholic notes: "There's only one winner here: Thompson. Patten's old-school RC, a Benedictine. Thompson's a trained-killer Jesuit. As history tells you, a Jesuit is all but unbeatable in battle or argument."
That organic ciggie moment
Speaking at the launch of the Daylesford cook book, A Love for Food – where guests included leading members of the Chipping Norton set, such as Elisabeth Murdoch – Lady "Carole" Bamford apologised for dragging guests out to unfamiliar Islington, where the party took place in a disused Citroën garage. It's the latest site to be acquired by Daylesford, and will open as a restaurant and shop in March. Afterwards, she admitted she is a nervous public speaker, and calmed herself down with an organic cigarette. The waiters were just as jittery: on two occasions they dropped whole trays heaving with drinks.
Ukip, a party for the ladies
The enlightened Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom, who once said women were better at finding mustard in the pantry than driving a car, is giving a party for "Women in Politics". It will tackle the thorny issue of the gender imbalance at Westminster. Speakers will include Lisa Duffy, Ukip's party director; Janice Atkinson; and Jane Collins – the latter two both Ukip MEP candidates. "We want more women in politics and we aim to encourage more able women to step forward," they say. "We do not believe in positive discrimination, gender quotas and tokenism, therefore you are cordially invited to bring a man." Unusually, champagne will be served. As they say: "David Cameron has banned it from Conservative events as he thinks it gives off the wrong message. Cheers!" How liberating it is to be shameless.
Why Kate chose St Andrew's
Some newspapers got very excited last weekend about a new biography of the Duchess of Cambridge, by Katie Nicholl. In Kate – The Future Queen, Nicholl writes that Edinburgh had been Kate's first choice of university, but that she reapplied to go to St Andrew's after learning Prince William was going there. Sensational though the revelation is, this isn't news to everyone. A profile of Kate in The Spectator in 2005 revealed that Carole Middleton had persuaded her daughter to change university on hearing William had won a place at St Andrew's. Modesty forbids me from identifying the author of that article.
Arguably Blair's biggest asset
A top London estate agent is selling "arguably the biggest house in Connaught Square". You can't really argue about the size of a house – it's either the biggest or it isn't. But more to the point – is the agent selling Tony and Cherie Blair's London home? The house advertised has over 5,000sqft, and a price tag of £8.95m. This is good news for the Blairs, who were thought to have overpaid, at the top of the market in 2004, paying £3.56m for 4,400sqft. In 2007, they extended by buying the mews house behind for £800,000, bringing the total to over 5,000sqft. The agent is very hush-hush when I ask for further details, and the Blairs' office declined to comment.
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