Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

Ready to pre-empt global disappointment

Share

Is it wrong to pay for sex? This is the question Germaine Greer, Rod Liddle and my colleague Joan Smith will be thrashing out at a sold-out Intelligence Squared debate on Tuesday. But a sub-controversy has emerged which could derail the event. Dame Joan Bakewell had been appointed to chair the debate, coolly to arbitrate while tempers soar. But last week Dame Joan penned a piece for 'The Times' in which she made her own views baldly clear, under the headline "Paying for sex? What's so wrong with that?". Understandably the three panellists for the motion are displeased and are asking for the chairman to be politely asked to stand down. Expect ugly scenes if not.

Boris Johnson wasted no time telling Sir Ian Blair what he thought of him the minute he became chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority. Sir Ian then spent 24 hours thinking things over before handing in his resignation. But in "thinking things over", Sir Ian took care to ensure that the terms of his departure would be as agreeable as possible. As we know, Sir Ian will wave cheerio to the job next month with a £160,000 pension. But as if that weren't quite enough, I gather he was adamant that he should retain his police allowance to free rail travel for the rest of his life. After some initial squealing, Boris, I gather, grudgingly agreed. All aboard!

Dashing historian Tristram Hunt is one of a number of hip young academics who have made studying cool. So I'm sorry to report he has given dusty old dons in common rooms across the country something to smirk about by making a terrible howler. Writing in a newspaper, Hunt makes reference to "the 1930s Cliveden set... and Hugh Gaitskell's Frognal set of the 1970s". This Frognal set couldn't have been a very lively bunch: Hugh Gaitskell died in 1963.

Obama's victory may have brought joy to many, but spare a thought for rubber chops Rory Bremner. Still struggling to perfect his David Cameron, the impersonator now has an impossible task in Obama. "Doing McCain was easy," he told me. "All you had to was say 'My friends, my friends'. Obama is much, much harder."

High drama at London's Guildhall on Wednesday night when Prince William and 500 guests were told to evacuate a charity banquet. Guests had just finished their medallions of sirloin at the bash in aid of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital and Wellbeing of Women, of which William is a patron, when the hall was cleared. What was odd was that an alarm had been ringing for some time before the evacuation was announced, and rumours soon circulated that the evacuation was a brilliant wheeze to allow the Prince to slope off early, on the grounds of a security threat. But the prince dutifully went back inside, and the whole kerfuffle turned out to have been just a well-timed fag break.

We doff our caps to the Queen, who asked the question nobody has dared ask when visiting the London School of Economics: how come no economist saw the crash coming? Now Gillian Tett, assistant editor of the 'Financial Times' and British Business Journalist of the Year, claims she did predict the crisis. Speaking at the Frontline Club last week, she said she had foreseen disaster in part through her training as a social anthropologist – studying the people of Tajikistan was vital to understanding group behaviour in the City, apparently. If only we had listened to her.

Starchitect Lord Foster is the latest victim of the downturn. Developers in Weston-super-Mare have decided to ditch his firm's plans for the Royal Pier Hotel project, a complex of luxury flats, bars and restaurants. To make matters worse, arch rival Conran and Partners has been brought in to take over. Lord Foster's original appointment a year ago was hailed with a media fanfare, but events since have required a scaling-down. Lord Foster had been asking for a £1.5m fee, which might now seem a little optimistic.

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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links