Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (06/06/10)

Would give up gossip if it meant that England won

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Much confusion over Hannah Rothschild's documentary about Peter Mandelson, after her talk at Hay, showing preview clips, was cancelled.

Apparently Mandy withdrew permission for the film to be shown, but when I spoke to her literary agent last week he said Rothschild had not finished filming, and planned to continue shadowing him over the summer. Indeed I understand Rothschild had already decided against giving the talk before last week. Rothschild refused to speak to journalists at Hay, but Mandelson's office confirms that he is still collaborating with Rothschild in the making of the film. No falling out, then – and besides, Mandy is, famously, a family friend of the Rothschilds. This weekend he is in Sitges, Spain, at the secretive Bilderberg conference where filming is, of course, out of the question.

***

Spin-doctor Helen Scott Lidgett, who was drafted into Gordon Brown's bunker at great expense in January, has limped back to her old job at Brunswick PR. An old friend of Sarah Brown's, the 60-year-old was once her art teacher at Camden School for Girls. She temporarily gave up her job in an emergency bid to improve the former PM's dour image, and was likened to Carole Caplin, Cherie Blair's infamous advisor, for her striking looks. But even the best PR couldn't help Gordon. As to who will be appointed to restore Labour's tattered image – that will be one of the first tasks for the winner of the leadership slog.

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In his book Meat, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall championed the eating of less popular cuts such as pig's cheek, but is his new venture a step too far? In March 2011 he has a book out, provisionally titled The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook.

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Does Gisela Stuart know what she has let herself in for? The German-born Labour MP has lost a wager against William "14 pints" Hague, after she bet that the Tories would not leave the European People's Party. They did. She reminded him of this during a debate in the Commons last week, to Hague's delight. "I am looking forward to drinking with her the proceeds that she owes me," he said. Watch out!

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Simon Mann, the Old Etonian whose failed "wonga coup" landed him a 34-year sentence in Equatorial Guinea's notorious Black Beach prison, has disclosed how he avoided the prison's worst deprivations during his time inside. "I had a whole network of people helping me," he explained when I ran into him at a party last week. It was recently revealed in an interview with Tatler that, far from suffering, Mann enjoyed gourmet meals and the president's own private health clinic. He certainly looked well on Thursday as he helped celebrate the launch of Katie Nicholl's biography of the royal princes. It was his first public outing since his return to Britain in November, and he admitted he was finding it hard to adjust. He continues to work on a book of his experiences, although was vague about plans for its publication.

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Not everyone has been in Hay – Sebastian Faulks, Esther Freud and Tim Lott have been sunning themselves in Mauritius for the Prince Maurice book prize. The winner was announced last night as former cowgirl Julia Gregson, considered the outsider, whose second novel, East of the Sun, beat William Sutcliffe and Sadie Jones. "I've been judging this prize for eight years and there has never been any tension to decide the winner," Lott told me on emerging from the final judging session. "This time it was total deadlock. I'm exhausted." We don't feel too sorry for him – pool loungers and palm trees seem rather more attractive than the sodden Wye valley.

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Mandelson, Blair, Alastair and possibly both Browns .... With so many Labour memoirs on the way, which to choose? Mandy's may be the best, but Richard Heller, an ex-advisor to Denis Healey, has launched an unusual campaign in the Yorkshire Post. "All great enterprises have to start somewhere, and where better than Yorkshire to launch a global boycott of Tony Blair?" he writes, before going on to pledge not to buy Blair's memoirs, or any newspaper which serialises them, or watch or listen to any broadcast which makes use of them, or to buy any related merchandise or services. Sounds like a full-time occupation.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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