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Andy McSmith's Diary: It wasn’t ‘just like that’ in Tommy Cooper’s day


As MPs gathered after the half-term break, you could hear the question whizzing around the building: “Do you know who they are?” The reference was to a mystery story festooned across the front of the Mail on Sunday about an extramarital affair between two unnamed famous people.

This sort of flutter must be very annoying for people who follow current affairs closely enough to know that there is a big secret doing the rounds but are not well enough plugged in to know what it is. It also caused people to begin naming the couple on the internet – wrongly in most cases. But these situations are inevitable when judge-made privacy law is applied to newspapers like the now defunct News of the World, which thrive on revealing who has been rumpy-pumpying with whom.

It was all so much simpler in Tommy Cooper’s day. The old comic had an extramarital affair that lasted 17 years, without needing a court injunction to protect him, because there were no mobile phones or emails for the Murdoch press to hack. It was announced last week that he is to be the subject of an ITV biopic, with Shameless star David Threlfall in the title role.

With a private  secretary like her...

There is expected to be trouble in the Labour Party over the announcement from Ed Balls yesterday that he is abandoning its iron-clad commitment to universal benefits by ending winter fuel allowance for wealthy pensioners. The Labour MP Barbara Keeley, for example, told the BBC’s Westminster Hour on the eve of the announcement: “I’m really quite committed to universal benefits. I even did a sponsored run to raise money for them.”

Ed Balls will need someone working hard to smooth relations with backbench Labour MPs. That task would usually be done by his parliamentary private secretary –  Barbara Keeley.

Charles stakes more claims in Transylvania

Prince Charles has just bought his fourth property in Romania, according to the country’s President, Traian Basescu, who met him in Bucharest yesterday.

The President joked that the Prince will soon have accumulated a whole village. His fascination with that country may derive from a blood link to the bloodthirsty 15th-century Transylvanian ruler, Vlad the Impaler, the reputed model for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Appearing in a documentary in 2011, Charles remarked: “The genealogy shows I am descended from Vlad the Impaler, so I do have a bit of a stake in the country.”

Dorries worries about her latest setback

Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP, lost the whip last year over her appearance on I’m a Celebrity..., then regained it, and is now losing something that means much more to her – her hair.

Seeing a glimpse of the back of her head on television, she was terrified to see that she is thinning out, a problem often associated with stress, though she claims that she has just had the “best” year of her life.

“The worst part is every morning you wake up and you look in the mirror – that actually does make you cry every morning,” Ms Dorries, below, told ITV’s Daybreak.

“Everything’s against you and you’re losing your femininity. You’re losing your confidence and you’re losing your ability to go out and actually face the world because you think what identifies a woman are her hair and her breasts.

“Women who suffer from mastectomies, I think, go through the same confidence-draining loss because what defines you as a woman is disappearing.” I doubt that Angelina Jolie would agree.