Christopher Silvester: The diary

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The Independent Online

Disgraced Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten emerges as a Charles Kennedy loyalist In Greg Hurst's biography of the former leader. This was not only through his helping to conceal Kennedy's alcoholism but extended to an important role at Prime Minister's Question Time. Kennedy's performances were hesitant, but his team "became aware that the somnolent posture of Edward Heath beside him made the visual impression still worse. Each week thereafter Mark Oaten made a point of squeezing on to the bench next to Edward Heath and giving the former Prime Minister a vigorous nudge just before Kennedy rose to speak".

* Constitutional Affairs minister Harriet Harman is standing for Labour's deputy leadership with a warning to colleagues that "we are not listening and arrogant". As Social Security secretary she dismayed Labour backbenchers by pushing through benefit cuts for lone mothers, and she would brush aside impertinent questions from journalists declaring: "I am a Secretary of State." Earlier, as an Opposition spokesman, TV interviewers were surprised by her demand for fees to appear. The late Lord Longford once wrote a book entitled 'Humility' and went round bookshops complaining that it was not displayed with enough prominence. Interestingly, Harriet Harman is his niece.

* On Tuesday, the day after Hungarians started their campaign of riots in Budapest in protest against their Socialist prime minister, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, whose grandmother was from Hungary, was celebrating the timely publication of Victor Sebestyen's history of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, Twelve Days. Other Cameroons present were the young MPs Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey. Also present was former Tory MP (and former minister) George Walden, whose book The New Elites, out this week, contains a vitriolic attack on Cameron as a fake - "a posh man pretending to be common".

* Connie Fisher may have won BBC1's competition to play Maria in Lord Lloyd-Webber's production of 'The Sound of Music', but there are those who think that the role should have gone elsewhere, even to someone who was not in the competition at all. Recently, Lloyd Webber was sitting waiting for his lunch guest at George, the fashionable Mayfair club owned by Mark Birley, when his reverie was shattered by guttural cries. They came from Hungarian-reared Lady Wyatt, widow of Woodrow and mother of Petronella, whose accomplishments encompass 'Daily Mail' gossip reporter, ex-lover of Boris Johnson, and amateur singer. Lloyd Webber, an acquaintance of Verushka Wyatt, did the gentlemanly thing and rose from his seat. For the next few minutes, I am told, she talked forcefully to Lloyd Webber about Petronella's wonderful singing voice. Why, he could do no better if he was looking for new recruits for his "moosicals"! The girl had such range! Such beauty of expression! Such "peech"! Lloyd Webber seemed concerned at the audibility of Lady Wyatt's voice - and of the stares of those lunching at neighbouring tables. The maître d' rushed over and guided Lady Wyatt back to her chair.

* Brian Vine, the well lunched reporter who died last week, spent the final six years of his career as managing editor of the Daily Mail, according to his obituary in The Times, "taking a notably generous attitude to one of his administrative functions - supervising reporters' expenses". Vine's legerdemain when it came to his own expenses was well known. When he was sent to New York for the Daily Express, it was agreed that the paper would pay for his effects to be shipped across the Atlantic. However, when the bill was submitted it included the cost of transporting a racehorse as well as the creature's veterinary treatment during the voyage. The bean-counters quibbled, but Vine grandly insisted that it was a household pet and, what's more, that his wife was very attached to it. "I was running the William Hickey column on the Express at the time and the story was held to be gospel," recalls Peter McKay. "I went to see the horse run at Belmont, in Queens. It didn't win."

* Mayor of London Ken Livingstone is horrified to discover that the London Pensions Fund Authority, which covers arrangements for his staff, has been investing in tobacco and arms companies. Perhaps he should have a word with Michael Ward, an old left-wing member of the GLC during Livingstone's previous incarnation as Red Ken, who is deputy chairman of the authority. In his biographical notes on the LPFA's website, Ward says he has "worked on ethical investment issues". Not hard enough, it would seem.

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