Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

It can see in the dark

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Following news that David Cameron's former press secretary George Eustice is off to feather his nest at Portland PR, I hear murmurings of possible changes in Tory high command. Hugh Powell, son of Margaret Thatcher's foreign policy adviser Charles, now Lord Powell, is being tipped for the role of chief of staff should Cameron win the election. Currently on a diplomatic posting to Afghanistan, where he's known as the Viceroy of Helmandshire, Hugh was godfather to the Camerons' late son Ivan. Although Dave's current chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, is highly competent, advising prime ministers is in Powell's blood — his uncle Jonathan was Tony Blair's chief-of-staff. "There is definitely a debate going on within high command," whispers a Westminster source. "Hugh's experience of foreign policy will be a big plus." This follows recent rumours that Dave's chief spin doctor, Andy Coulson, ex-editor of the
News of the World, could be tempted back to journalism.



•••

Distressing news among football's senior citizens. The other day Pele, once the world's greatest player, accused Maradona, ditto, who has had his share of drug problems, of being a bad example to children. Asked to comment, Maradona replied: "What do you want me to say? Pele lost his virginity with a man." This unseemly barb stems from a grubby old story about the 14-year-old Pele, which the peerless Brazilian says is completely without foundation. Naughty Diego.



•••

When opera-loving Norma Major was asked what she would miss most from life in office, she said sitting in the front row. "It's great – wherever you go, you sit in the front row. It'll be quite a shock, seeing the backs of people's heads again." So it was heartwarming to spot Norma and John in the front row of Così Fan Tutte at Wilton's Music Hall last Wednesday. But while Norma was enjoying that early-Nineties feeling all over again, John might have preferred a seat further back. The production by Diva Opera was in the round, so that for much of the evening the Majors had singers belting out arias inches from their faces. It might have suited the rest of the audience who struggled to concentrate when confronted by their former prime minister's canary yellow socks.



•••

As a distinguished portraitist, Humphrey Ocean RA has painted everyone from Philip Larkin to Paul McCartney. But while his paintings are held in high esteem, it seems his written work is not. Ocean was horrified that an article he had written for the Royal Academy magazine about the eccentric painter Jean Cooke had been rewritten. The RA has issued a grovelling apology: "These amendments altered the balance and tone of the piece. We apologise to Humphrey for our lack of sensitivity and offer readers the opportunity to read this piece unaltered on the RA website."



•••

The Pope has been sparking more controversy than usual, not least among the chatterati of the Catholic church. Congregants at the conservative Brompton Oratory fiddled nervously with their rosaries when Fr Julian Large used his sermon last Sunday to launch an attack against The Tablet magazine, calling the left-leaning weekly a "snivelling rag" and suggesting it was so poisonous you need gloves to read it. Assaults between left and right have been flying around the Catholic blogosphere, but some took exception to such a grenade being lobbed from the pulpit. Indeed, only the week before, Fr Ignatius Harrison, Provost at Brompton and Fr Julian's senior, had used his sermon to call for an end to the recent name-calling, and asked congregants to pray before picking up a pen. But who can blame Fr Julian for making a little mischief? He was, after all, a gossip columnist once upon a time.



•••

No sign of Taki at Charles Glass's glittering party to launch his book Americans in Paris in Holland Park last week. The Greek playboy and Spectator columnist is the number one fan of the dashing former war reporter, with whom he usually turns up to smart London parties. The two writers have in common a spell in captivity, Glass as a hostage in Beirut, Taki as a guest of Her Majesty's penitentiary. Despite Taki's no-show the two remain firm friends, Taki being represented by his daughter, interior decorator Lolla Theodoracopulos. Other high-octane guests included Rory Bremner, Lady Antonia Fraser and historian Antony Beevor.



•••

Aspiring young journalists turned out in force for a panel discussion on the future of journalism at Goldsmiths College, London, where speakers tackling the thorny subject included Radio 4's Steve Hewlett, David Leigh of The Guardian and Observer columnist Henry Porter. "As journalism undergoes widespread systemic change, have its practitioners retained their values and objectivity, or have many lost perspective along with power and position?" was one of the questions in hand. So it was good to hear Porter, also London editor of Vanity Fair, tell how he is personally keeping it real; Porter disclosed he pays a researcher in Wales £100 per week to trawl through the newspapers looking for ideas on his behalf. Isn't life grand?



m.bell@independent.co.uk

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