Matthew Bell: IoS Diary

Whose expenses were passed by the authorities

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Tory MP Andrew MacKay last night said he would stand down at the election over his expenses, after being heckled by constituents to "give it back". But what of his wife Julie Kirkbride, who – surely – must at least have known that she and her husband were claiming for the same houses. After saying she "bitterly regrets the system" – hardly an apology – she has kept a strangely low profile. MacKay will be 60 in August, but Kirkbride is more than 10 years younger. Maybe she is still hoping for high office (and earnings) and is waiting for the storm to pass. Sadly, my first call fails to elicit a response. When I called again yesterday to shoot the breeze, she says: "I don't want to discuss this. Goodbye." Click, brrr. Oh dear. Was it something I said?

Three cheers for Tracy Worcester, who celebrates a victory this week in her battle against US pig farmers. Tracy, aka the Marchioness of Worcester, has spent the past four years making a documentary investigating the practices of the pig meat giant Smithfield Foods of America, who part-own the Mexican farm where swine flu is alleged to have started. Lawyers advised Channel 4 against transmitting the programme in February, but now, after a few small changes, Pig Business is to have its UK debut at the Barbican on Wednesday, with Zac Goldsmith on hand to lend support. There will be a second screening next Sunday at the Hay festival. Apart from the pigs, Worcester is worried about the demise of the freedom of speech, after an article she wrote on the subject for the Mail on Sunday was again spiked by the lawyers. "So make the most of this viewing!" she says.

Terrifying times for the nation's gourmets following the death of a diner who had recently gorged on oysters at Quaglino's. Now Heston Blumenthalm says he has yet to hear what caused the rash of tummy aches at The Fat Duck. "We are still waiting on the final report," he told an audience at the Hay festival yesterday. "It's been delayed. All the people who were working on the report were called off the job. Some thing called 'swine flu' seemed to be more important. We did all the tests we needed and it categorically was not food poisoning but it must be something else." Cold comfort for those of us eager to get back to our snail porridge.

As an experienced traveller he has had his share of delays, but even Michael Palin's patience must have been tested on his latest trip to the Middle East. The Monty Python star was kept waiting at a checkpoint for five hours on his way to this weekend's Palestinian Literary Festival, which he is headlining. Officials at the Allenby Bridge checkpoint took their time to pore over his party's documents and passports as they entered the country from Jordan. Yesterday, the opening event at the festival was broken up by border guards with guns. As one onlooker sighed, "It just ain't Hay."

A gong to the Western Morning News for never giving up on making mischief. Only months after being forced to shell out £10,000 to Totnes MP Sir Anthony Steen, thanks to his muscular friends Messrs Carter-Ruck, the paper got a fresh complaint about a photo they had used, which didn't show him at his best, being of the up-the-nostril variety. Days later Steen stepped down over his expenses, saying we are all "jealous" of his big house. The paper duly celebrated by running the offending photo all over the front page.

Paris-based novelist Lucy Wadham tells Prospect she has diagnosed President Sarkozy as a "sex dwarf". Quoting ex-prime minister Dominique de Villepin, she says the French have a subconscious desire to be raped, something the little fella has done as president. And by the sounds of it, she knows how that feels, after meeting him at a press conference: "I thought I had grown out of my tendency to blush, but throughout the event I felt that either I must be pre-menopausal or this person was going out of his way to embarrass me. Hard as it is to admit, sitting in Sarkozy's line of vision for two hours was among the most erotically charged experiences I have had. When he ended the conference and swept out of the room with his aides running behind him, I was left in a state of Victorian agitation. (If I had had a fan, I would have been waving it furiously.)" Ooh la la!

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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