The Feral Beast: Hillary's feast feeds rumours

Even the claws are chocolate

Only weeks after Hillary Clinton stood down as Secretary of State, speculation is mounting that she has her sights on the White House for 2016. With Barack Obama obliged to stand aside at the end of his second term, the chatter in wonk circles is that she plans to throw her hat in, even though she will be 69. I can disclose that Alec Ross, one of Hillary's closest aides, gave a dinner for Democrat-supporting British politicians in London earlier this month. Ross was senior adviser to Clinton on innovation during her four-year tenure as Secretary of State. Guests at the dinner, held at a private members' club in the West End, included MPs from all parties and a smattering of celebrities with Democratic sympathies. "The issue of running for office didn't actually come up," whispers my man clutching the silver cloche. "But it's safe to say Mr Ross was testing the water for support of Hillary's possible nomination." Hillary has so far maintained a Boris Johnson-style coyness when asked about her presidential plans.

Self keeps it Strictly private

John Sergeant was a surprise hit on Strictly Come Dancing, thanks in part to his porcine build. So were producers hoping to find another unlikely star when they asked Will Self on to the show? The erudite novelist and thinker is not known for his dance moves, but has a striking figure, being 6ft 5in, gaunt, and whippet thin. I can reveal that makers of the hit BBC1 show were desperate to sign him up, but failed to persuade him. A new series is planned for later this year, but no names have yet been revealed. My source tells me producers were hopeful they could secure Self, but negotiations broke down at a late stage. It's thought there was some unhappiness over the pay structure, whereby the size of the fee depends on how far through the series the contestant lasts. Self is typically laconic when I ask about it: "I think they once asked me. I've been asked to do most of that celeb reality horse shit – but always declined. Obviously."

A pussycat bow for Hodge?

Writer Damian Barr has enjoyed a glittering career since he was signed up by The Times straight out of university. His latest book, Maggie and Me, a memoir of growing up in Thatcher's Britain, is being tipped as a big read of this summer. The book isn't published until May, but I gather film executives are already eyeing it up for the big screen. The question is, who would play Margaret Thatcher? Meryl Streep set the bar impossibly high in The Iron Lady, and Greta Scacchi, Maureen Lipman and Andrea Riseborough have had a crack. Barr tells me his preference is for Patricia Hodge, who once played Mrs Thatcher in a stage play. "And Anne-Marie Duff for my mum," he adds. What about for himself? "Some brilliant child actor, as I'm a kid for most of it." The only obstacle to international stardom could be the film's title. Maggi & Me is already a hit fantasy comedy in Singapore.

Boyd's dramatic surprise

William Boyd only got round to writing his first play last year, saying he had "finally managed to get this monkey off his back". Longing, based on two short stories by Chekhov, is currently at the Hampstead theatre in London. Though one reviewer felt it "struggles to achieve dramatic impetus", Boyd can't get enough. "I'm loving it, I must say!" he tells the Beast. "I've seen it a dozen times now. Can't stay away." So much is Boyd enjoying his new life in theatre, that he has begun a new play. Boyd is better known for his novels, which include Brazzaville Beach and Any Human Heart, but started as theatre critic for his university magazine at Glasgow in the 1970s. "A lot of my friends are actors, and I've always been stage struck," he told this paper last year. "I've got the theatre bug" he tells me now. "Another play is on the stocks."

Toynbee fury makes the news

A gripping spat broke out on Friday night between left-wing columnist Polly Toynbee and Daily Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher. It began when Toynbee accused his paper of not reporting on cuts to benefits. "Telegrph [sic] NEVER tells readers truth re benefit cuts," the Guardian columnist Tweeted. Mr Gallagher promptly hit back, accusing her columns of being "repetitive, leaden & hectoring", and saying "you are starting to sound like the crazy person on the bus". It all rollicked along to Fleet Street's delight, finishing with a demand from Toynbee that the Telegraph "print my col". Mr Gallagher's silence suggested to some voyeurs that La Toynbee had had the last word. But Mr Gallagher clearly had other plans. Yesterday's Telegraph ran a story quoting the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith saying he is not seeking to cut the welfare bill further. On the front page, no less.

Wossy wonders who's the Lady

Jonathan Ross is tickled to have received an email from Amazon addressing him as "Lady Susan". "That is officially my new nickname," he declares on Twitter. It prompts the question – which Lady Susan is receiving Wossy's emails? Let's hope it's not Lady Susan Hussey, the Woman Bedchamber to the Queen, who is also Prince William's godmother. More likely, as the comedian lives in Hampstead, it's Susan Garden, Baroness Garden of Frognal, Hampstead. One can't help feeling Wossy, with his schoolboy humour, would enjoy meeting the Lib Dem peer – she's formally styled The Right Hon The Lady Garden.

One Justin or two?

Justin Hawkins – remember him? The gangly shrieking frontman of The Darkness is back, but with less swagger. Speaking to Q magazine ahead of a UK comeback tour, he admits he was thrilled to be once immortalised at Madame Tussauds, even if they got him wrong. "I was just happy to have one, really," he says. "What was a bit 'off' is that I had to wear – well, my waxwork had to wear – a weird scarf, because there's a join at the neck that would normally be concealed by a collar or something like that. I would never wear a scarf because it would be impractical – it would end up in my guitar strings." As to whether it's still there, he is doubtful. "I imagine that they've melted it down and made it into somebody that people would actually pay money to look at," he says modestly. "You could make two Justin Biebers out of me."

Arabella doesn't see the joke

Arabella Weir tells me she has mixed feelings about modern comedy, and worries that some of it is needlessly brutal. The author of Does My Bum Look Big In This?, who made her name on The Fast Show, tells the Beast that "a lot of modern comedy is cruel". "The comedy of 'today' is the comedy of embarrassment," she says. "I do think Ricky Gervais is a genius, but you're not laughing, you're mainly cringing." She adds: "Then there's stuff that's ludicrously slapstick, like Keith Lemon and you think to yourself – 'that's not sophisticated'." Whereas bottoms...

m.bell@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?