BBC chief infuriated by Tory 'quangocracy' jibes

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The Independent Online

Astonishing as it still seems, the Conservatives performed a dramatic volte-face last week by endorsing the social policy themes of left wing commentator Polly Toynbee. Sadly, there seems to be little chance of any reconciliation with their other great bête noire, the BBC.

Sparks are currently flying between the offices of the Beeb's chief operating officer, Caroline Thomson, and the Tories' shadow culture spokesman, Hugo Swire, after Mr Swire recently accused her of being part of a New Labour "quangocracy".

Swire last week claimed Thomson had made her way into the upper echelons of the BBC thanks to her marriage to the former Downing Street adviser Roger Liddle and her previous work as an assistant to Labour chancellor Roy Jenkins.

Delightfully, Thomson has gone ape and has fired off an angry letter of retaliation, a copy of which has made its way on to Pandora's desk.

"I was shocked, not so much by the ridiculous allegation that I am a New Labour crony, as by the sheer number of inaccuracies on which the charge was based," she says.

"For the record, I would like you to note that I am not a member of the Labour party. My husband, of course, is a member but I wasn't aware that the new Conservative Party regarded wives as inevitably and simply an adjunct to her husbands."

Tory sources claim they're delighted to have stirred the pot.

Froideur at the track as Jagger's ex loves meet

A palpable chill hovered over Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury racecourse when Jerry Hall and Venezuelan brainbox Vanessa Neumann found themselves guests at a lunch to celebrate the trophy's 50th year.

Neumann was once reportedly an on-off flame of Hall's former husband, Mick Jagger, and was delightfully dubbed the "cracker from Caracas" by British newspapers

While Hall made frequent trips to the Tote during the afternoon, Neumann told me she had plans to make a mark on the National Hunt scene. "I own a showjumping horse called Noblesse which I want to breed steeplechasers," she said.

"I've found her a partner called Roviris who was sired by the former Derby winner Sir Ivor. I was quite surprised when the stud told me she'd have to go there for three weeks. I thought she would just need to go for a dirty weekend."

Mourinho's new strip

Jose Mourinho has snubbed Armani in favour a rival Italian fashion house.

For the past two years, the urbane Chelsea manager has patrolled English touchlines in a spiffy grey Armani overcoat.

This season, he's adopted what looks like a waterproof creation that a reliable fashionista informs me is made by swanky tailors Ermenegildo Zegna. It's apparently known as a high-performance jacket and fetchingly comes with detachable leather waistcoat.

"He bought it in August before the season kicked off," says a spokesman for the store. "Actually, he dropped by recently and said it had become his new lucky jacket and asked us to embroider his name on the lapels."

Snazzy fellow.

Schools' meal

News from Westminster that the ambitious Tory MP Mark Pritchard is trying to launch a new political supper club.

Pritchard has sent out a round robin e-mail to colleagues suggesting a society for all members who attended comprehensive schools. It's not immediately clear what the point of such a club might be but he claims the idea is in the interests of "inclusivity". Presumably, then, Pritchard's public-school educated leader, David Cameron, would not be welcome at the table.

So far, I'm told, the notion has fallen on stony ground. One response has been from Tory Gerald Howarth, who's cheekily suggested celebrated snob Nicholas "fatty" Soames as a guest speaker.

Trouble on the links for Sir Mark?

Some mischievous soul appears to be trying to further undermine the former rally car driver Sir Mark Thatcher. There's a rumour doing the rounds at the upmarket Spanish resort Sotogrande claiming "Scratcher" was recently blackballed from joining its luxury golf club, Valderrama. It's ish and pish, a spokesman is delighted to inform me.

"Sir Mark had been playing as a guest in a member and guest weekend at Valderrama recently but made no enquiries about becoming a member, and therefore received no rejection from the club," I'm told.

Of course, it wouldn't have been the first time Thatcher had felt the cold shoulder of rejection from the tartan-trousered brigade. He's previously been declined membership at South Africa's prestigious Royal Cape course.