Pandora: 'Get exclusives!' Unless you happen to be a BBC boss...
Friday 18 January 2008
There's plenty of smirking over at the BBC Politics office in Millbank, as correspondents watch their dragon-boss, Sue Inglish, squirm during the Peter Hain dodgy undeclared donors affair.
Inglish, 54 this year, is married to the old Labour spin quack John Underwood – who happens to be a mate of Hain and was his treasurer. Inglish's husband is now in the news for setting up the controversial thinktank at the heart of Hain's problems – a thinktank without any thoughts but which masked the identity of donors to Hain's campaign to be deputy Labour leader.
Inglish was extremely bullish during last year's cash-for-honours inquiry, pushing her staff to "Get out! Get exclusives!" Her department even offered its journalists an incentive of £100 to the first hack to confirm that Tony Blair was to be questioned by police.
She appears less enthusiastic about this hoo-ha being laid bare. She disappeared from the office the moment the story broke about her husband. "She wants sleaze exclusives?" spluttered a colleague. "She could give us the exclusive on this right now!"
When contacted last night, Inglish told Pandora: "I haven't got anything to say to you," before hanging up. A BBC spokesman explained that Inglish felt it would be "inappropriate to make any editorial decisions on the coverage of Peter Hain". Right! The BBC director of news, Helen Boaden, agreed.
Most galling for Inglish must have been when her own camera crews "door-stepped" her, seeking a surprise interview with her other half. No cuppas there.
Fabio tells prosecutors: hands off my paintings
Fabio Capello is a refreshing oasis in the cultural desert that is English football – so thank goodness, in light of recent events, that his precious art collection remains intact.
Italian customs authorities yesterday raided the new England manager's home in Leganano, his accountants' offices and several other properties he owns in Milan, reportedly seizing items relating to their £7m tax investigation.
News of the bust alerted arty types, since Capello counts a fine collection of modern art among his most valuable assets, including a piece by the American abstractionist Cy Twombly, who recently had a painting sold for $8.7m (£4.3m) in New York. Not the sort of stuff you want scaly tax inspectors chucking in the back of their wagon.
"No, they cannot take it," insists his son and spokesman Pierfilippo. "All the art work is private to Fabio Capello so they cannot connect it to this."
What happened next?
Good man, that Elton, 'ad 'im in my column once.
Sir Elt and his partner David Furnish were in a South African township, visiting HIV/Aids projects funded by his Aids Foundation, ahead of shows in Johannesburg tonight and tomorrow. This Cape Town mothers2mothers charity prevents mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
Elton has also found time for pleasure; he was seen at the weekend in a game reserve, looking sunburnt.
It seems timely to hold a caption competition. Entries to the email address at the top. The best will win a bottle of something fizzy and a £50 donation to Elton's foundation in your name.
Like a crocus bursting into the sharp January air, the Evening Standard's executive editor, Anne McElvoy, surfaces writing The Spectator diary. And what a fruity dispatch from the Oxfordshire countryside!
Anne (who was not considered for the Times editorship) pleases the colonels with talk of pierced nipples, sexual fetishism, "buttock-honing walks" and a detailed description of her bathing habits: "I raced for the plug and sat in the remaining five inches, covered in gooseflesh from the navel upwards." That's enough, dear, enough!
* The Fuggin' Pharaoh, Mohamed Al Fayed, failed to stop the BBC's debate "Is the Diana inquest a waste of time and money?" The Beeb's Nicholas Witchell was at the High Court and peeved to be kept in the dark about Newsnight's plans. "It turned into a bit of a BBC bunfight," said a source.
Watch yer language, Davey
David Cameron is heading for a face-off with the hairy-nosed beetroot-face Speaker of the House, Michael Martin. On Wednesday, the Conservative leader trampled all over Parliamentary protocol by repeatedly addressing the Prime Minister with a barked "you".
Members must be referred to in the third person. What's more, speakers must not cross the white line down the centre, nor must they go closer to their opponent than two sword-lengths. Antiquated, yes, but it prevents the fantastic tie-pulling, pinching and frenzied fist fights familiar to observers of the South Korean, Australian and Russian national assemblies. Labour MP Barry Sheerman has fired a letter of complaint to the Speaker demanding he rap Cameron. Bellows Bazza: "This flagrant abuse of the rules was rehearsed and staged to gain attention."
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