Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (07/08/11)

Luxury in an age of austerity

Share
Related Topics

Royal biographer Hugo Vickers has launched a withering attack on Anne Sebba, author of a new biography of Wallis Simpson, for claiming the Duchess of Windsor might not have been all woman. Sebba's book says Edward VIII's wife was born with androgen insensitivity syndrome, or AIS.

But Vickers, whose own biography of Mrs Simpson was published in April, dismisses this as "complete rubbish". "I am absolutely sickened by these suggestions," he tells me. "Anyone who has bothered to look into this can tell you it's complete rubbish. I researched this extensively for my book and found not a shred of evidence to support it." But Sebba holds her ground when I call. "Hugo Vickers would be well advised to wait until he has read the whole book," she says. "I have got a lot of new material, but I can't talk about it because of a Channel 4 film I've made." Vickers claims the theory first surfaced in 1996, when Michael Bloch published his own biography. "He got a massive advance and was told to come up with something sensational. And that was what he did." Vickers, who also wrote a biography of the Queen Mother, adds that Mrs Simpson has become one of the most maligned figures of the 20th century. "I seem to have embarked on a one-man crusade to defend her."

Situation vacant – Andrew Lansley wants a spin-doctor. The Health Secretary hasn't had one since his trusty stooge Jenny Jackson was banned from speaking to the press, which can make being a press spokesman tricky. Life got difficult for his so-called "Elf secretary" when she was caught sending emails that undermined Nick Clegg and described junior Lib Dem ministers as "yapping dogs". Some might have said she was helping her boss by taking the heat, as Lansley has become the most pilloried cabinet minister since announcing his NHS reforms. In any case, he is now seeking a replacement, and only attack dogs need apply, as he is famously hostile to the press. Trouble is, it might not be for that long – I'm told Lansley is due a reshuffle. And what of Mrs Jackson? "She's spending the summer proving she is still very much in the loop," says a friend, "by taking a trip to Mongolia."

Cold Feet stars Robert Bathurst and Hermione Norris (pictured) were reunited earlier this year in a West End production of Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward's comedy featuring a ghost. At the time, Bathurst said, "What a pleasure it is to be reunited with Hermione." But just how much of a pleasure was it? Speaking to a newspaper yesterday, Bathurst said he was glad to be doing something else. "You enjoy each other's company, but you acknowledge that before too long you hope you'll be doing something else." He's been filming scenes for the new series of Downton Abbey, in which he plays Sir Anthony Strallan, who is enamoured of Lady Edith, played by Laura Carmichael. When Bathurst pointed out to the scriptwriter Julian Fellowes that Strallan is 50 and Edith is 23, Fellowes apparently replied, slightly too wistfully: "Yes, but you'd have got away with it in those days." What would Hugh Bonneville say?

The diary has tried to maintain its indifference to Sally Bercow since she projectiled her way into public life, but it's difficult. The Speaker's wife and incontinent tweeter became unavoidable last week when she was given a new platform – Radio 4. The Today programme has struggled to find anything interesting to say since August began, but sank to a new low with Bercow's two minutes of cliché-riddled nonsense. Now we learn she is considering going on Celebrity Big Brother. Over to Bobby Friedman, currently penning a biography of the Bercows. "Bercow will be seething," he tells me. "But money is tight in the Bercow household and Sally is building her own career. With political leaders getting younger, it is inevitable their wives have their own career rather than ride pillion." Er, there's quite a lot wrong with that last sentence, but we'll limit ourselves to pointing out that Bercow is not a leader.

Rumours are still swirling over why top conductor Claudio Abbado and pianist Hélène Grimaud have fallen out. They pulled out of a recording this autumn, and she will no longer appear as a soloist with him in Lucerne and London's Southbank. Some say he wanted to invite other soloists to take part, but I'm told Grimaud has ambitions for a more glittering career on her own, in the mould of Lang Lang. I hear she has "thrown in her lot with a Berlin-based pop promoter" – we look forward to the rebrand. Grim Grim?

Minimalist composer Steve Reich is in London on Wednesday for a late-night Prom of his work. Let's hope the fire alarm behaves this time – it once went off during a rehearsal, prompting one violinist to quip: "Does he get royalties for that too?"

m.bell@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate  

Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Andrew Grice
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after agreeing a deal on carbon emissions  

Beijing must face down the perils of being big and powerful – or boom may turn to bust

Peter Popham
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable