`Biographer tells all' shock

Just why did Carol Thatcher write the biography of her father? Easy, confided Lord Deedes at yesterday's Foyles literary lunch, which he chaired to honour Miss T. "My theory", he said, "is that Carol wrote the book because she felt her father ought not to be known only by the Dear Bill letters in Private Eye."

Not an unreasonable assumption. And as the eponymous recipient of the correspondence, he should know. Unfortunately, in the next two hours I watched Miss T and her father destroy his theory. One hundred or so of the Home Counties' best blue rinse had gathered at the Grosvenor House Hotel to learn who the man behind the gin-soaked buffer of the 19th hole really is. His daugher rose in a post-lunch flush to tell all - and when she sat down, we were not one jot the wiser.

"Denis and gin go together like Imelda Marcos and shoes," she declared. "In fact, when he was in Marseilles during the war, he had a go at making the stuff. He mixed it up in the bath, and a mouthful nearly blew his head off! That was easily solved - he turned on the taps and watered it down. You've never watered a drink down since, have you, Dad? Ha-ha-ha."

Carol's abiding memory of Denis in Number 10, we learned, was of him "pouring strong ones for anyone who needed it", and in moments of crisis his voice would boom along the corridors of power: "Let's get relaxed!"

Denis, true to form, sat through this portrait of a benign and befuddled chap, smiling and sipping - and saying not a word. Precisely, in fact, the Denis of Dear Bill letters. Not that the blue rinse brigade seemed to mind, especially the ladies who after seeing Denis Thatcher and Lord Deedes asked me which was which.

Judge a book by...

I fear I must add to the embarrassment of the women-only Orange Prize for fiction after two of the judges, the reviewer Val Hennessy and the novelist Susan Hill, were widely quoted as damning the general standard of entries. Ms Hennessy said: "I have seldom come across so many books that were so bad. Some were just drivel." Ms Hill added: "I have to be a bit careful, but I think I can say I thought the quality of entries was abysmal, terrible." The prize's administrator, Kate Mosse, sees male conspiracy in this. The male journalist who wrote the original piece left out everything positive, she complained yesterday.

I asked the said male journalist whether he was a sexist pig, whether he was one of those who thought it odd and patronising to instigate the prize in a year when women had won both the Booker and the Whitbread. Far from it. "I am not against the prize at all," he told me. "I didn't even ask the two judges whether they thought the general standard was poor. They both came straight out and told me. I was amazed."

It is interesting that both Ms Hennessy and Ms Hill, with exactly the same phrase, regretted "that trees had to be cut down" for some books. Almost as if it was the very phrase used at the judges' meeting.

Presidential seat

A week is a long time in easy-to-assemble furniture. An unlikely confrontation between the Russians and the Swedes is taking place in Paris, on the subject of an advertising campaign by the Swedish furniture store Ikea. To advertise the opening of a new store to the east of Paris - it already had stores to the north, west and south - Ikea used a big photograph of Mikhail Gorbachev, accompanied by the words: "Everything is changing quickly in the east" and the date of the new store's opening. A further poster, also with Gorbachev's photograph, says: "In the east everything is now just the same as in the west."

After approaches from the Russian embassy, Ikea has had to issue a disclaimer, stressing that the posters were not construed in any way as part of the Russian presidential election campaign, in which Mr Gorbachev will be a candidate.

Down Mexico way

Why was Sir James Goldsmith given a happy 20-minute slot on Breakfast with Frost on Sunday? Could it be anything to do with the fact that David Frost had spent the Easter break chez Goldsmith at his Xanadu-style mansion in Mexico?

Money for old coke

I'm pleased to see that the EastEnders actress Daniella Westbrook has rectified the appalling tabloid slur that she spent pounds 100,000 on cocaine. The 22-year-old who plays Sam, a barmaid, tells the May edition of Loaded magazine: "It was my money and not even the pounds 100,000 that was reported, it was closer to pounds 50,000 ... The most I ever spent in an evening was pounds 600." That's a relief. For a moment there I thought the publicly funded BBC might be overpaying its soap opera starlets.

Eagle Eye

Publicists who need the occasional prompt

Something seems to have gone awry with the publicity material for the opening of the Minerva Theatre season at Chichester next month. The opening production will be the world premiere of Simply Disconnected by Simon Gray. The producer will be Duncan Weldon. The leaflets mention Gray's work of yesteryear, Otherwise Engaged, but unusually, there is no mention at all of his last theatrical outing, which also had Weldon as producer. Is it being written out of theatrical history? Just so Chichester patrons are up to speed with Gray's oeuvre, I can remind them what the publicity material forgot: his last work was Cell Mates, starring Stephen Fry (above) - though not, alas, for very long.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'