Poetic justice? Queen orders up a second birthday song

In an apparent snub to her Poet Laureate the Queen has commissioned a second celebratory anthem to mark her 80th birthday, after Motion's original effort was criticised for being too gloomy.

One of our greatest living composers, John Rutter has agreed to write a jaunty carol, to be sung by the choir at Sandringham on Christmas Day.

He was offered the job after Motion's original, "The Golden Rule", set to music by the master of the Queen's Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, received a mixed reception from on its debut performance at St George's Chapel, Windsor.

The lengthy anthem, which celebrated the Queen's "constancy," was played during her 80th birthday service there last month.

Although Motion said at the time that he was "very proud and pleased" by its reception, the song was criticised for being more solemn than celebratory.

By contrast, Rutter tells me that he's been asked to come up with a more lively number.

"It's going to be sung at Sandringham Church on Christmas Day, in front of the whole Royal Family, by a small choir of 15 or 16," he said at the recent Classical Brit Awards.

"Some people might think that carols are a bit naff, but apparently the Queen is very keen on my work. I've been told not to make it too abrasive."

Elton snaps at the snappers... again

Sir Elton John wouldn't be Sir Elton John if he didn't jollify public appearances with the occasional "moment".

At the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, the flamboyant singer was asked to present the Chopard Trophy to one of his favourite actors, Kevin Zegers.

All went according to plan, until an over-zealous photographer interrupted his speech praising the young actor's film Transamerica.

Ignoring the snapper's request to smile for the cameras, John leant sternly into his microphone.

"If you saw Transamerica ... I'm talking ... you fuckwit, fucking photographers, you should be shot, you should all be shot. Thank you."

He then handed the Chopard Trophy to Zegers with the words "they are a fucking nightmare," and returned to his seat.

The sponsors had loaned the potty-mouth Elton more than 120 carats of diamond jewellery for the bash. They might have hoped for better.

Did Beckham bend fashion rules?

David Beckham's latest party frock has upset traditionalists, who claim he wore a clip-on bow tie with his dinner suit on Sunday.

If true, this would have serious implications, since pundits insist that one should never trust a man with a fake bow tie.

Pictures of the "full-length and fabulous" bash are inconclusive: they show England's captain wearing a winged collar (a lesser crime), but the crucial portion of tie remains concealed.

Yesterday, the Beckham camp insisted that his neckwear, which was designed by Timothy Everest, was "definitely real". Said a spokesman: "I was at the party and saw him with it undone at one point."

Cynics aren't convinced, though. They reckon Becks carried a "proper" bow tie in his pocket, and swapped it with the fakie at a crucial moment.


The Labour propagandist Polly Toynbee discloses her "greatest political villain" in the new May/June edition of Progress magazine.

In an "any questions" interview, which landed on Pandora's desk yesterday, she names and shames the Conservative MP Eric Forth.

His supposed crime: "yobbish parliamentary vandalism, in destroying private members' Bills regardless of their merit".

Sadly, Forth is not able to defend himself in his usual outspoken fashion. He died (somewhat tragically) on Wednesday.

Toynbee's "greatest political hero" is an old hero of the left, Shirley Williams. She is still going strong, at the age of 75.

Trade union gives camel fans the hump

As if Sir Paul McCartney didn't have enough on his plate, his favourite pressure group, Animal Defenders International, has picked a fight with the beer-and-sandwiches men of the GMB.

On Sunday, the trade union paraded a camel across Clapham Common, in protest against the AA's new owner, Damon Buffini.

The stunt was supposed to show the religious, plutocratic Buffini that it is easier for a camel to walk through an eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Instead, it prompted a stern press release from ADI: "We're appalled that the GMB is exploiting an animal in this way. It's degrading and potentially very distressing." A spokesman for the GMB returns fire: "The camel, Teifet, enjoyed his day out, but we won't be using him again."

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