The Feral Beast: James's lass Larkin' around

Free for an off-the-record knifing

There was a striking display of precocity at the Notting Hill launch of psychologist Oliver James's new book, Love Bombing, about how to harness parental kindness to overcome temper tantrums, hyperactivity and so on in children. Fittingly, the star performer was James's 10-year-old daughter Olive, who proudly insisted on offering a toast to the book with a recitation that owed something to the title of one of James's previous books and rather more to Philip Larkin.

She stood on a convenient piano and recited the following (with, apparently, minimal parental editing):

They fucked me up, my mum and dad,

They didn't mean to, but they did.

They filled me with the faults they had,

And added some extra just for this kid.

After the second verse, she concluded with: "Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. I'll get out as early as I can, but in the meantime, raise your glasses and wish Love Bombing good health."

Aaaaaah!

It was the 'Sun' wot spun it

"So the cops … told you the story was true – or so you claim?" wrote one mocking journalist last year, wagging a finger at another. "The problem with journalism," he continued, "is that people don't tell you the truth. They think it's the truth, they hope it's the truth, they wish it to be the truth, but they get it plain wrong." The journo who had cocked up was Guardian reporter Nick Davies, who was shown to have erred in his claim about the hacking of Millie Dowler's phone. And the author of the ticking off? Step forward

Kelvin MacKenzie, who tried last week to excuse his infamous Hillsborough front page by telling us how often he used to run stories that relied upon police evidence.

Straw's patchy memory

Talking of the football disaster, Jack Straw's memoirs are more magnanimous than revelatory. The words Hillsborough, Sir Mark Allen (MI6's fixer on Libya), Libya and rendition do not appear in the index at all, and the words Guantanamo, Megrahi and Rebekah Brooks (Straw's frequent travelling companion from the Cotswolds) appear just once. Craig Murray, who was Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan at the time of the events covered by the Iraq Inquiry, and who has accused Straw of lying, is only mentioned because he stood against Straw in Blackburn. And no, since you ask, Straw says he had nothing to do with any plotting against Gordon Brown.

Making a noise for Boycie

Friday's launch party for the second set of memoirs of Only Fools and Horses actor John Challis was attended by Richard Littlejohn and dress designer Coco Fennell (you seem surprised?), but the presence of one guest in particular, Tim Rice, caused tongues to wag. Could Challis's theatrical life (he's also done his share of the RSC and Stoppard, I'll have you know) be the subject of a musical? No. He and Rice go back decades.

An ear-bashing in Abbey Road

Even the great Humphrey Lyttelton lost his cool occasionally, it seems. Sir George Martin, who produced so many of the Beatles' hits, worked with the great trumpeter at the Abbey Road studios and recalls telling Lyttelton's bass player that he sounded as if he was "playing with boxing gloves on".

An outraged Lyttelton, above, stormed out of the studio in sympathy, complaining: "It's bad enough trying to make jazz in this sterile place, without having an idiot saying things like that."

Martin eventually found Lyttelton pacing up and down Abbey Road, and had to grovel to get him to return to the session.

One for the bean counters

Many of those who attended the Lib Dem conference took advantage of an agreeable haven in the Brighton Conference Centre last week, where senior politicos could rub shoulders with similarly lofty souls away from the gaze of party members.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is paying £30,000 per conference (it's at all three) for the "Total Politics Coffee Club", which may surprise those (most of us, surely) who associate the foundation with its heroic fight to end child poverty. A JRF spokesperson says: "It's providing a service to delegates – it's amazing how hard it is to find a good space for a meeting at conferences."

So, presumably Total Politics is paying a good deal more, to have its name on the title. Iain Dale, publisher of Total Politics, won't discuss commercial arrangements but said that the figure was "not dissimilar to what The Independent pays to market its newspapers at the political events.

"Any exhibition stand at any party conference obviously costs money. Any commercial arrangement between any two companies is a matter between them. We're there to market ourselves; as is JRF. The Lib Dem lounge has been a huge success…"

Dave's dilemma

Friends of David Cameron cite two contradictory facts which sum up his conflicted state of mind over whether to sack his chief whip Andrew Mitchell over the "plebgate" affair.

First, Cameron's own patrician upbringing – whatever else it did – placed considerable emphasis on treating "staff" properly, so much so that the nanny who helped bring up his mother stayed with the family and helped bring up not one but two subsequent generations of Cameron children. He is thought to have been furious with Mitchell, who has never been a bosom buddy.

Second, at the height of the accusations against his former media boss Andy Coulson, Cameron told a friend: "You can't go round sacking people on hearsay."

A charitable correction

Ting a ling! It's Roy Greenslade on the phone. The esteemed professor of journalism is calling to correct a mistake. Last week I reported that the actor Bertie Portal had raised an astonishing £400,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, by rowing across the Atlantic. In fact the charity that benefited was Facing the World, an equally worthwhile cause, and one that is close to Professor Greenslade's heart.

Apologies all round. The confusion arose because Mr Portal recently spoke at an evening in aid of the CF Trust. Heroic isn't the word. Hats off!

Purnell forms own coalition

Those who wish former Labour MP James Purnell well – and there are many in Westminster, although some are hoping that at 42 he'll soon settle down – will be excited to hear that he and Rowenna Davis are "stepping out" together. Davis, 27, an Oxford graduate and Labour councillor, is a rising star of journalism (particularly TV discussion programmes) and an assiduous supporter of various charities, one of which seeks to provide opportunities in journalism for young people who are at risk of social exclusion. Friends say the pair have been an item for some months.

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