The Feral Beast: Have at thee, my Noble foe
Sunday 27 January 2013
Exciting times for the Royal Shakespeare Company, where Gregory Doran has taken over as artistic director. On Wednesday, he revealed plans for his first season, with stage adaptations of Hilary Mantel's Booker-winning novels and David Tennant playing Richard II. But Doran also announced a return to the Barbican, the RSC's former home in London in December. That's one in the eye for Adrian Noble, Doran's predecessor, who quit after a year of relentless criticism. One charge against him was that he had abandoned the RSC's presence in London. One nil to Doran.
Dave sees Brooks and lights up
David Cameron has largely given up smoking cigarettes, but cigars are another matter. I can reveal that the Prime Minister indulged in "a large cigar" in the company of Rebekah Brooks, at a party last month given by Tom Astor.
Cameron and his wife attended the private bash at Merriscourt Farm in Oxfordshire, which is just two fields away from the home of Brooks, who is on bail.
Cameron was spotted enjoying an "intense" conversation with the disgraced former News of the World editor, though when the PM was later quizzed about it on BBC Five Live, he said it was "not a big deal". He pointed out that Astor, who is the great-grandson of the heiress Nancy Astor, is his wife's cousin. Only yesterday, pictures emerged of the PM looking somewhat patrician at a restaurant in Davos with various Old Etonians. And in a curious case of art imitating life, the cover of this week's Economist magazine is a montage of Dave puffing on a cigar.
Still, as Kenneth Clarke says, politicians should be allowed to "chillax with a brandy and cigar" if they want. Norman Lamont recalls the young Dave giving him a cigar "a foot long" just before Black Wednesday. "By the time you have smoked all of this," counselled Dave, "all your troubles will be over." And then the economy crashed.
Does Eric Pickles have prime ministerial ambitions? The latest audit from the Government Art Collection shows the redoubtable Tory minister has borrowed two sculptures of former PMs to adorn his office. One is of the Tory prime minister Disraeli, made by 19th century sculptor Count Gleichen, a half-nephew of Queen Victoria. This is understandable, given his hand in the creation of the modern Conservative Party. More surprising is Pickles's choice of Gladstone, the great Liberal leader who had two stints at No 10, and who has been sculpted by William Goldsmith. Pickles has also bagged a Hockney print, a French landscape and a painting of Liverpool Street Station. He is only going to turn 61 this year, so there's still time to land the top job and become an artwork too. Look out!
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, chosen as the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Russians in 1945. But for one prominent Lib Dem, a more ghoulish anniversary is in sight – this Wednesday's anniversary of Adolf Hitler coming to power in 1933.
Lord Alton of Liverpool tabled a question last week, to ask if the Government had "any plans to mark the 80th anniversary of the coming to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany on 30 January". Not surprisingly, the answer was a curt "No".
When I ask Lord Alton why he feels this anniversary needs marking, he cites the worrying rise of anti-Semitism in the Europe. "It's important not to forget the manner in which Hitler came to power and its consequences," he says.
"You may have noticed I tabled the question alongside another about the rise of anti-Semitism in the Ukraine – which is a particularly worrying situation."
Badger your MP
Owen Paterson says he has received more death threats as Environment Secretary than as minister for Northern Ireland. The reason is badgers.
Despite having had a pet badger, Paterson has been leading the way for a badger cull to combat the spread of bovine tuberculosis, finally scheduled to take place in June. The Tory minister was addressing a group of West County farmers: "There is a large element of public opinion which is completely against any sort of cull," he said.
But he cited Donegal in Ireland, where there has been a 96 per cent reduction in TB thanks to a cull. "I'm not a nasty brutish minister culling badgers" he said. "But we are heading for a bill of £1bn for bovine TB, and we are idiots to pay for it when you look at Ireland and see what can be done." Bigging up Ireland and culling badgers – he's fulfilling two briefs at once!
No surprise to hear Catherine Pepinster joining the chorus of those complaining about the pornification of children, a campaign being led by rising star, Claire Perry MP. Pepsi is, after all, the editor of leading Catholic weekly, The Tablet.
But it was surprising to hear her begin Thought for the Day the other morning by saying she had "immersed herself" in the new book on the Profumo scandal by Rupert Davenport-Hines. Perhaps she was thinking of the well-known writer Richard Davenport-Hines. All those names can be confusing. Enoch Powell once attacked the gossip columnist James Hughes-Onslow at a Spectator party by saying: "What are you – a Hughes, or an Onslow? Why can't you make up your mind?"
Tessa Jowell was made a dame last week, and celebrated the occasion by giving a high-octane cupcake party at the Houses of Parliament. Tony Blair led the speeches, followed by Ed Miliband and Lord Coe, who said "Tessa gives women politicians a good name". But there was one notable absence – Chelsy Davy, who four months ago started stepping out with Jowell's son, Matthew Mills. The 29-year-old finance worker was pictured canoodling with Prince Harry's ex-squeeze at Cape Town airport last weekend, and a friend claimed they're "very happy and in love", after a "whirlwind romance". Still, clearly a bit too whirlwind for Dame Tessa, as young Matthew attended alone.
The sorry squabble between Peter Ustinov's relatives over the late actor's inheritance came to some sort of resolution last week. The High Court rejected his son Igor's claim that trusts had been set up for his four children to inherit, instead of it all going to his third wife, Helene, their stepmother.
Now, it looks like most of the fortune has disappeared on legal fees. The odd thing is that Igor should have wanted to spend nine years in Swiss courts fighting this out. His childhood was overshadowed by a five-year legal battle between his mother and Sir Peter over custody of their three children, which she lost. Surely after that, the last thing you'd want would be to go back to a Swiss court?
There was knowing laughter at the launch of In Two Minds, Kate Bassett's biography of the theatre director Sir Jonathan Miller.
The 78-year-old former doctor was present, and gave a speech in which he praised our esteemed theatre critic for having "managed to speak to people I haven't spoken to in years". A tactful way of referring to Bassett's interviews with Sir Peter Hall in the book. Hall and Miller have had a 40-year feud.
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