Ministers certainly know what's in the Scott report. Civil servants are terrified about what's in the Scott report. Journalists speculate about what's in the Scott report. In the law department at Essex University they must feel they have a pretty good clue as to the overall gist.
The guest speaker there on 19 March for the annual Essex Law Lecture is Sir Richard Scott. He has now supplied the university with the title of his lecture. Could it be "How Governments Maintain Integrity?" I'm afraid it is not. Sir Richard has told the university he will be speaking on "The Export Control System and the Abuse of Power".
Mrs Ann Woodings, who is co-ordinating the lecture for the university's law department, tells me: "I have been hassling him since September for a title. It became quite clear that he considered the choice of title to be a contentious matter, and we have only recently received it."
Well, he has been rather busy with another contentious matter - namely, the content of the lecture.
While the pop world debates whether Blur or Oasis are the champions of Britpop, history seems to have decided that it is, in fact, neither. Rock Circus, the London waxwork commemoration of rock music, chooses its heroes sparingly as each waxwork costs pounds 25,000. It has not yet cast any of Blur or Oasis in wax, but is instead planning to immortalise Jarvis Cocker, the gangly frontman of Pulp. Rock Circus officials will now have to scour jumble sales for Cocker's signature brownsandals, red velvet jackets and beige slacks.
This is Your Chaos ...
What happens when you transfer the four intellectual participants of BBC Radio's Moral Maze to the brain-free zone of BBC television's This is Your Life? Chaos, of course. Dr David Starkey, Janet Daley, Rabbi Hugo Gryn and Michael Mansfield QC gathered in the studio to record a programme, shown this week, celebrating the life of the presenter Michael Buerk.Mansfield took one look at the script and asked: "Who wrote this rubbish?" The scriptwriter, who chanced to be standing behind him, bravely plunged forward regardless and suggested that the team enter the stage debating a moral question. Dr Starkey, who records the incident in today's Spectator, then came up with the bright idea of debating the morality of springing surprises on unsuspecting people.
This set Mansfield off: "Moral blackmail, that's what this programme is," he yelled at the cameras, greatly upsetting the production team. Rescue came in the guise of Janet Daley, who entered and rushed up to Buerk crying: "Michael, we all wanted to say something nice about you, but we couldn't agree what."
Even she could not be restrained entirely. At the end, as everybody applauded Buerk, she whispered to Starkey: "Isn't it amazing how easily you can get intelligent people to behave like Pavlov's dogs?"
Acting like a plonker
The Royal Ballet's Darcey Bussell, who is to dance the part of the Aids virus at Covent Garden, does not quite win the prize for the most unlikely piece of method acting. I award that to the actor David De Keyser. Next week on Radio 4's Thirty-Minute Theatre he stars in the late Mel Calman's play about a man's body parts rising up to resist his heart attack. De Keyser plays the penis. Whether this is a large or small part, I shall not even bother to speculate.
Tory MPs are guarding their tongues after Lady Olga Maitland, MP for Sutton and Cheam, had a disquieting encounter in the Commons tea-room the other day. Gerry Bermingham, Labour MP for St Helen's South, told her that in the chamber that day he had seen her ask a neighbouring Tory if the Labour MP who was on his feet should have declared that he was sponsored by the National Union of Teachers.
Lady Olga was amazed and appalled. How had her discreet whisper been overheard on the opposite benches? Bermingham explained: "I learnt to lip-read after I damaged my hearing when I played rugby as a young man." He recounted the episode in the Westminster Review, adding: "When I spoke to Olga it was a bit of fun. It is not something that I use for political advantage as that would be unfair, and when people are talking privately I look away."Reuse content