Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

Surveillance without the bugs


With her bushbaby eyes and thrusting shoulder pads, Joan Collins has brought a sprinkle of glamour wherever she goes since the heady days of 'Dynasty'. This Christmas she has lent her finest Alexis Carrington voice to Marks & Spencer in a series of TV ads in which she pretends to pretend passing off M&S food as her own. As the images of mouthwatering morsels roll, we hear Joan telling us about her "delightful steak and ale pies" and "gorgeous mini roast beef Yorkshire puddings with horseradish crème fraîche". Delicious! The only thing is that Joan is a vegetarian. Your secret's safe with us, Joan.

Just over a month ago, life was looking bleak for Raj Persaud, the TV shrink who became a star after years of appearing on 'This Morning'. After being found guilty of plagiarism he was forced to quit his post as consultant at a leading London hospital. His income as a psychobabble rent-a-quote dropped too. But things are looking up. He has a book out in the new year – not a memoir, but a guide on how to be socially successful, complete with a witty title: 'Charm Offensive'. Charm is one thing he knows all about, so we trust his work will, this time, be all his own.

Top international architects have joined an escalating row after Israel's supreme court approved plans to plonk a Museum of Tolerance on to, er, an ancient Muslim cemetery. The idea is to promote tolerance but, not surprisingly, it's having the opposite effect. More than 40 architects, including Will Alsop, creator of the Peckham Library, have written a letter complaining about the proposed building. "All the architecture in the world cannot engender harmony on the basis of trampling over people's rights and history," they say. Curiously, Lord (Richard) Rogers, founder of the Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine campaign, has yet to make his own views known.

Gwyneth Paltrow is discovering the perils of being an eco-celeb. That champion of our feathered and furry friends Viva!, the Vegetarians International Voice for Animals, has got in a flap over Gwyneth's Thanksgiving turkey. "Gwyneth Paltrow has set her sights on this poor beleaguered bird," fumes Justin Kerswell, Viva!'s campaigns manager. It was only two weeks ago that Paltrow was forced to apologise to her eco-sensitive fans for promoting a fashion label that uses fur. Adds Kerswell: "Not only do millions die for Thanksgiving and Christmas, turkeys now have to contend with an actress whose green and ethical credentials are vanishing quicker than her Hollywood career." Ouch.

There wasn't much to laugh about in the Queen's Speech, but a small burst of comic relief ensued in the hands of recently appointed Scottish peer Lady Ford. She told of how, being new to the House, she once inadvertently sat on the Bishops' Bench. "I was sitting minding my own business late one evening when my error became manifest when the Right Reverend Prelate, who will remain nameless, sat down beside me. I immediately realised my error and apologised. He leant over and said conspiratorially, 'You will find on this Bench that if you wear a Laura Ashley nightdress you will fit in a lot better.' Ooh, vicar!

It was standing room only at the London School of Economics on Wednesday for an audience with Cherie Blair. An alumna of the school, Cherie was on top form, giving plenty for Tony to blush about. Recalling sharing a room with two other women when a student, she generated much tittering with her innuendo-laden observation that "I don't suppose you have three girls in a room in quite that way now". Some audience members were surprised at how easy a ride Cherie was given, prompting speculation the students had been hand picked. But I'm reassured no such rigging took place. The most probing questions came from LSE director Howard Davies. He even caught her fibbing when she denied having swapped the furniture between 10 and 11 Downing Street before moving in in 1997. "Oh yes you did – you stole Gordon's lamps. It's in the book," he snapped, quick as a flash. "Well, Gordon doesn't care about those sorts of things," she replied. Not a defence that would stand up in court, one feels.

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