Mathew Bell: The IoS Diary (06/11/11)

Treason and plot

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The Independent Online

The Bishop of London's reverse ferret on the St Paul's occupation has left some wondering what the Right Rev Richard Chartres really thinks (first he took a firm line against the anti-capitalists, now he has softened). So it's illuminating to know he was once a champion of the bowler hat, the symbolic headpiece of City bankers.

Chartres liked to wear one with a three-piece suit and monocle when he was training to be a priest at Cuddesdon theological college near Oxford. He was, in those days, "outrageously reactionary", as he once admitted in an interview, and voted against all "modernisations". These included the ordination of women and homosexuals. "Some of it was genuine belief, some was immaturity," he said, though he was tolerated by Robert Runcie, later Archbishop of Canterbury, who was then in charge of the college, though they disagreed on "virtually everything". Chartres's luck run out when Runcie was replaced by the future Bishop of Bath and Wells, Jim Thompson, and he left Cuddesdon under a cloud without completing his studies. Thompson was a BBC favourite and regular on Radio 4's "Thought for the Day", as is Canon Giles Fraser, who recently quit St Paul's. Chartres, meanwhile, is a friend of Prince Charles, and his son works for an investment fund.

Michael Winner is struggling to sell his Kensington house for the £60m asking price, more than two months after he put it on the market. He tells me he's had plenty of interest, with "some big names" in the frame, but mainly he's had time-wasters. "I've had no end of nutters coming round, wasting my time," he tells me at the launch of his latest book, Tales I Never Told. "They all say they've got the money, but the cheque's in the post." When I suggest the asking price may be the stumbling block, he dismisses that out of hand. "It's cheap for the area," he yells. Admittedly you get a lot for the money – the house has 46 rooms, nine lavatories, a cinema and a swimming pool. But the £60m only gets you a lease – the new buyer will have to shell out an extra £20m to secure the freehold. "We've had some movement today," Winner reassures me, presumably talking about the house sale.

Sir Terence Conran has warned that one of London's funkiest buildings could be demolished if something isn't done to save it. He is referring to the white-washed former banana warehouse that currently houses the Design Museum. Conran, 80, founded the museum in 1989, but announced he was moving it to a site three times the size in Kensington, because they've run out of space. This summer, he donated £7.5m towards the project, and has also pledged the £10m he will raise from selling its present home. "I'm selling the lease, but who knows what might happen to it after that," he told me at a party last week. "It's not listed, which in my book it should be, and there's nothing to stop a developer from demolishing it and building a skyscraper in its place. I think it would be a terrible pity to lose it, not just because it has been home to the Design Museum for so long, but because it's a wonderful building – one of a kind." The building is on the south bank of the Thames near Tower Bridge, and was built in the 1940s. The new museum will be housed in the former Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street, and is expected to open in 2014.

Amber Rudd was the surprise toast of Tatler's Little Black Book party for eligible singletons, held at Annabel's on Wednesday. The 48-year-old Tory MP for Hastings made a refreshing change from the teenage airheads usually found at the society snogathon. Kate Reardon, Tatler's sharp new editor, has opened the list to include all generations, but has got strict about enforcing the "singletons-only" policy. Even Condé Nast boss Nicholas Coleridge was banned from attending the three-course dinner and dance, because he is married. Rudd was once married, to the writer A A Gill, and is the mother of his children, but is now single once more and quite a catch. "People always label me as Adrian's ex-wife, or as Roland Rudd's sister," she tells me. "I have actually been an MP for more than a year. What more do you have to do to become a person in your own right?"

Sky newsreader Kay Burley is also romantically uninvolved, though she has a new passion in her life – bridge. "I play three hands every morning before work," she told me at the launch of Dangerous Women: A Guide to Modern Life. Burley's love for the famously difficult card game should go some way to dismissing the unkind comments made about her in the past. MP Chris Bryant once called her "dim" on air, and on 11 September 2001, she told viewers: "If you're just joining us, the entire eastern seaboard of the United States has been decimated by a terrorist attack."

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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