Tuesday 06 February 1996
If Dame Stella Rimington, soon to retire as head of MI5, does not become the next Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge when Lord St John of Fawsley retires this summer, she can blame the society magazine Harpers & Queen.
Next month's edition of the glossy has infuriated the college by flagging an article on Oxbridge masterships - "Dame Stella Rimington is tipped to be next Master of Emmanuel - but is running an Oxbridge college the enviable job that it used to be?"
"That is both wrong and naughty," says the Master's secretary. "The election has not taken place yet. The governing body is still choosing candidates. The only reason for the suggestion is that it was reported that she came to a dinner at High Table last term."
Professor John Coates, who has been acting as vice-master and head of the selection procedure, confirms that this is the case. "It is a very delicate matter" he says "As we think of people or look at those who have applied we weigh up how valuable their input will be in three fields: education, teaching and research." And counter- espionage, surely.
Tory MP's teeny secret
Few MPs are as zealous as Peter Luff, the genial Tory who today introduces a Bill to get teenage girls' magazines certified like videos and restricted according to age. To win support within the Commons, he has, I hear, been carrying a few samples on his person. Woe betide any innocent bystander lurking in the lobbies and corridors. Before you can blink, Luff whisks out a copy of More, Sugar, Bliss or other lurid examples of the genre. The only problem that the MP for Worcester has encountered on his campaign trail has been back at home, with his 10-year-old daughter, Rosie, whose reading matter inspired his concern. "He is determined not to let Rosie see these publications," explains his wife. "So every time she comes anywhere near, he dives into the garage and locks them in the boot of the car, and re-emerges rather red-faced."
Poor Rosie. If that isn't enough to confuse her, what is?
Prediction is a gamble
In a lecture to be given today at the Royal Geographical Society, Lord Rothschild, chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, dispenser of National Lottery money to good causes, says that lottery turnover is running at pounds 5bn a year, with good causes receiving pounds 30m a week. How "wildly out", he notes, were the predictions of the Royal Commission on Gambling in 1979, which forecast a turnover of pounds 100m a year and a pounds 45m per annum contribution to good causes. How wildly out indeed was the Royal Commission on Gambling - chaired, as I recall, by the late Lord Rothschild, father of today's speaker.
Baffled by propaganda
I must admit to being puzzled by a fax sent to me by the Westminster Supporters' Group. The document appears to be a piece of propaganda backing Dame Shirley Porter and her former Westminster Council cronies against the accusations of gerrymandering made by John Magill, the District Auditor. First, none of the current Tories on the council seems to know who the mysteriously anonymous "supporters" are - and there is not even a telephone number to respond to. There is an address - but in deepest Battersea, the wrong side of the river for a Westminster supporter.
Will the supporters reveal themselves?
Shirley some mistake ...
In his review of the biography of the newspaper proprietor Conrad Black in the Mail on Sunday, the journalist Peter McKay added a humorous postscript. He hopes, he says, that his opinion of Conrad Black is "unclouded by the remote possibility that they might one day be in an employer-employee situation".
That possibility must be even more remote now. McKay wrote that the most interesting part of the book concerned Black's first wife, Joanna, who later changed her name to Shirley. Mr Black, a stickler for accuracy, will certainly remember that his first wife was called Shirley, and later changed her name to Joanna.
Wizard of the guitar
I felt honoured to be the only newspaper person at a private party thrown at a night club that was decidedly off-Broadway by The Who's Pete Townshend for the cast of his musical Tommy, which opens next month. All the leading players took it in turns to jump up on stage and sing a rock or soul standard.
Not everyone managed to raise the rafters, but I spotted a definite star in the making: Nicola Hughes, who plays the acid queen. Her rendition of "Big Spender" was a great performance that crossed Shirley Bassey with Tina Turner.
The evening ends with the 18-year-old Tommy, Paul Keating, singing "Pinball Wizard". Accompanying him on acoustic guitar, and pointing manically, was a bald, middle-aged gentleman who I was told is a little hard of hearing.
I assume he is a gatecrasher and go to tell our host, only to discover ... Yes, it was Mr Townshend himself.
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