The Feral Beast: Scribbler Pryce is on her way out

Always plays to win

Vicky Pryce will be released from prison this week, only two months after she was sent down for perverting the court of justice. I'm told the disgraced wife of Chris Huhne will be let out of her open prison near Maidstone wearing a tag, on condition she signs in every evening. This means she won't yet be at liberty to return to the south London canapé circuit, of which she and Huhne were once leading lights. But perhaps she will choose to stay inside. For I gather she has proved a big hit with fellow inmates, and is having a splendid time. Indeed, she has put the past eight weeks to good use, scribbling away at a book telling her side of the story.

My source says she is never seen without her Moleskine notebook. Before the sordid scandal of her husband's speeding points exploded, Pryce was a respected economist, and author of the bestseller Greekonomics, which was almost up for this week's Orwell Prize. What might the new book be called? One wag has suggested Prisonomics ….

Bravissimi!

As A-list models, David Gandy and Yasmin Le Bon already have plenty in common. But they have been brought together by a shared passion for motorsport – I can reveal they have teamed up to compete in this week's Mille Miglia, a gruelling three-day dash around Italy. The race, which was banned after a series of fatalities in 1957, has been revived as a time trial open only to classic cars. They will share a brown Jaguar XK120, setting off from Brescia to Rome on Thursday. Organisers have confirmed that actor Daniel Day-Lewis is also taking part, as is Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy. Not surprisingly, Hoy is taking it extremely seriously, and has been in training for six weeks.

Gandy, best known as the face – and body – of Dolce & Gabbana, reviews cars for GQ, and his first job was working for Auto Express. Le Bon has more of an interest in motorbikes, and her husband, Duran Duran singer Simon, used to race yachts. But after Gandy bumped into Le Bon at a party, he persuaded her to join him. They spent a day last week practising at Goodwood in West Sussex, and Simon has now also got the bug. "Yasmin and I are planning to do it together next year," he tells me. Now that would be brave.

Roses: £350k

Writer and historian Paul Johnson has long been a familiar sight in Somerset, striding the Quantocks with his watercolours and easel. Now, at 84, he is selling his cottage in Over Stowey, the same village where the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote "Kubla Khan". Johnson has written 40 books and was once editor of the New Statesman, before he shifted to the right and became friends with George W Bush. Now he plans to spend more time in London, where one son, Daniel, is editor of Standpoint, and another, Luke, is an entrepreneur, valued at £150m in the Rich List.

The three-bed cottage has roses round the door and pastoral views, and an asking price of £350,000. But it's surely the highbrow provenance that sells it.

Sweeney silence

John Sweeney may have smuggled himself into North Korea, but Cardiff library could prove beyond him. The Panorama reporter, who got into hot water for using an LSE field trip to get into the weirdo country, was due to give a talk to local discussion group, the so-called Cardiff Skeptics in the Pub. They had been invited to use the library by the council, and had also booked Professor David Nutt, the Government's former drugs adviser, for a separate talk in July. So they were astonished to be told they could no longer use the venue, apparently because the council was nervous about the controversial nature of the talks. Sweeney planned to speak about Scientology, a pet hobby horse, and Nutt's talk is on drugs. According to emails leaked to the Western Mail, a library worker said it would be "great" to host them, but there might be an issue "about the controversial nature of the talks". A later email said the talk would not be able to go ahead, but gave no explanation.

Sweeney is outraged, calling it an assault on free speech. The council has now rushed to insist the talks were not cancelled because of their subject matters, but because of a "misunderstanding". But of course!

Rien ne va plus

The Ritz in central London was Baroness Thatcher's final home. But was the hotel also mindful of her strong Methodist beginnings? The Ritz Casino, housed in the Piccadilly hotel's basement, has announced it is to open 24 hours a day, as of tomorrow. This will bring the casino in line with its closest rival, Aspinall's, which has also recently opened up to customers round the clock. Intriguingly, the announcement wasn't made until after Lady Thatcher's death. Was it delayed? "We've been waiting for a 24-hour licence for ages, actually," says my man at the baccarat table, pooh-poohing my theory. Still, the timing couldn't have been better.

Grand designs

First there was the lesbian issue, then came "Titler" – a round-up of society boobs. Now, Tatler is shaking up its fashion pages, and has got top stylist Katie Grand on board. Gap-toothed Grand is known for pulling off memorable coups, such as launching Love magazine with a naked Beth Ditto on the cover, and persuading Liz Hurley to pose nude six weeks after giving birth. Now, I understand she has styled a forthcoming shoot for the society monthly, though Vogue House sources are tight-lipped about details. Meanwhile, congratulations to Tatler editor Kate Reardon. She is to wed bloodstock agent Charlie Gordon-Watson on Wednesday.

Blair dossier

Tony Blair wrote in his memoirs that it was the prospect of Cherie becoming an MP that galvanised him into becoming one himself. Now, Cherie has pointed out it's just as well she didn't, as Tony would have made a lousy First Lady. In an interview with CNBC, to air on Wednesday, she recalls the period when she ran for a seat before Tony had Sedgefield. "I'm a girl who never says no, and I thought 'Oo, this will be an interesting thing to try'," she trills. "But it was in Kent; it was a very safe Conservative seat, and there was no way a Labour candidate was going to be elected....

"So there was a period of nine months when Tony didn't have a seat as a Labour candidate and he was the candidate's husband. All I can say is, he wasn't terrifically promising First Lady material, and I think that was quite a challenge for him." Bless.

Everything but the clean suit

Tracey Thorn of Everything But the Girl was among Damian Barr's friends at the launch of his Maggie and Me on Thursday. The book is an account of Barr's struggles growing up gay in working-class Scotland in the 1980s. Thorn, sadly, didn't sport a Thatcher-like barnet or accept Caitlin Moran's offer of a backcombed restyle. Barr thanked a cardboard cut-out of his heroine for dying with such exquisite timing, but was less grateful to Moran. She spilt a drink in the crotch of his pale suit, creating an unfortunate impression. The Beast would like to hear Thorn make a song out of that.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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