Diary

The silly season is now officially under way, with Parliament closed for the summer and newspapers desperate to find new events to cover, from the Lithuanian festival of folk dancing and farm machinery to the Andalusian vole-bothering championships. Meanwhile, the House of Commons takes on a striking resemblance to an assembly of the present Cabinet: the lights are on, but no one's home. As silence descends on the corridors of power (or, as they've become under Major, the corridors of uncertainty), Dennis Skinner may well make his traditional plea that the empty building be used as a place for down-and-outs and social misfits to sleep and find shelter. This is usually rejected, on the grounds that nine months of the year is considered a sufficiency.

There is, however, one piece of unfinished business: tomorrow's contest in Littleborough and Saddleworth. This is the latest in the British tradition of by-elections, so-called because the voters take one look at the Conservative candidate and say: "Byeee!"

With the summer comes the usual run of repeats: crisis in Bosnia, strikes on the railways and English cricket echoing to the sound of leather on stump. I should add that I now feel fully qualified to play for England, having had my hand broken by a sharp delivery from New Zealand's Chris Cairns that cut back off the seam and rearranged my knuckle. After two weeks I've at last remembered the technical term used in bowling to describe one that comes back suddenly and unexpectedly: an Emburey.

It's already been a good summer for social events, notably Sir David Frost's annual starfest, which is like running into a coach party from Spitting Image. The man's range of top contacts is phenomenal, and you never know who you are going to run into next ("Have you met the Pinochets? Charming couple ..."). He also has a knack of pairing people you'd never dream of seeing together in public: Bob Geldof and Norman Lamont, Esther Rantzen and Michael Winner, Prince Andrew and his missus.

At a newspaper do recently I ran into Sir Robin Day, who remains as frisky as a fox cub and spends much of his time mentally lobbing housebricks at the television a la Victor Meldrew. He introduced me to Judge Stephen Tumim, who so loves his job as chief inspector of prisons that he immediately set about examining conditions inside my waistcoast, finding them cramped and inadequate. Thanks to him conditions in jail have improved considerably since the dark days of Strangeways, where prisoners were forced to sleep three to a roof.

Channel tunnel revenue will no doubt be boosted by the news that three- quarters of the ferries plying our shores have dangerous design faults. This demands further investigation, possibly by Steven Norris, the roll- on, roll-off transport minister. Ship operators would do well to remember the words of that old music-hall favourite: "Nobody Loves a Ferry When She's Faulty."

After VE Day, the England rugby team, Greg Rusedski and Damon Hill, yet another attempt to give the British something to cheer about - a feel- good factor, indeed - came unstuck as Nick Faldo was blown away at St Andrews. But yet again a sporting triumph is reduced to tabloid terms: not "victory for top American golfer" but "reformed alcoholic wins pounds 125,000". How ironic then that his trophy should take the form of a claret jug.

Doing a show in Liverpool last week, my thoughts naturally turned to those four lads whose songs changed the history of popular music. Were they the greatest? How did they do it? And, most pressingly, however will they manage without Robbie Williams? The ubiquitous pictures of the former Take That star, with his improbably peroxide hair and dark eyebrows reminds me of the story of the famous conductor Pierre Monteux. For the last few years of his life he was principal conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra and continued to dye his hair a dramatic black; dramatic because his moustache remained defiantly white. Asked the reason for this tonsorial discrepancy, he replied that "eet eez because ze 'air on my 'ead 'as not 'ad ze same experiences ..."

Coinciding with the new vacancy in Britain's top band we learn of yet another Conservative who has decided to throw in the towel and retire from serious politics, though they will, of course, remain Conservative. This brings the total to 38. Do they know something we don't? It is, I suppose, perfectly possible that MPs are even now looking to wow a newer, younger audience as the fifth member of Take That. Latest betting:

Evens: Douglas Hurd: right haircut, shame about the glasses. Ideal replacement for Robbie, having spent five years at Foreign Office trying not to get involved in anything.

5-1 Kenneth Baker: supported Blondie for 12 years. Currently involved in former ministers' Serious Moonlighting tour.

10-1 Cranley Onslow: crazy name, crazy guy.

12-1 John Biffen: semi-detached, in need of some refurbishment.

15-1 George Walden: Geoffrey Palmer lookalike. The Ringo Starr of politics.

The re-emergence of the Grobbelaar case brings back the rash of comic suggestions as to what he should do if he's found guilty: join the investment company Don't Save and Prosper, seek a Christmas job at Toys R Us (giving the games away), or throw himself under a bus, though there's always the possibility that the bus will go under him.

Either way, I'm prepared to bet that even now the streets of Southampton are crawling with members of a Malaysian syndicate offering the Hampshire constabulary large amounts to fix the result. Though in this weather it might be best to let everyone go off on holiday and leave it to that ruthless and resourceful group of people who have for years managed to fix match results while remaining undetected and above suspicion: the pools panel.

Due to a production failure, the name of yesterday's diarist was omitted. It was Sara Maitland. We apologise.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss