Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (11/04/10)

Stands unopposed

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The Ghost Writer is released on Friday, what news of George Bush's presidential memoirs? We know the old warmonger is putting the finishing touches to a book provisionally entitled
Decision Points, but it wouldn't be too unkind to suggest he might welcome some editorial guidance. And who better to cast an eye over the manuscript than Bush-friendly historian Andrew Roberts, who is living in the US now his wife has become head of Brunswick PR's New York division. A rumour even reaches me that Roberts is planning his own biography of his old friend. "I'm not writing a biography of President Bush," Roberts tells me. "That isn't to say that I wouldn't write one if asked and the financial aspect made sense." No one is thought to have come near to offering Bush the $15m (£9.8m) Clinton bagged for his autobiography, but who could resist the sort of thorough and critical examination of Bush we know Roberts would produce?

The death of Malcolm McLaren has prompted a number of touching valedictory articles from those who knew him, and many more from those who scarcely did. Snatching the gong for most shameless cash-in comes from music hack Andy Pemberton, who within hours had dispatched a breathless piece to the Huffington Post headed, "Confession: I was among the last journalists to interview Malcolm McLaren." I bring you a few selected highlights... "I met McLaren at a coffee spot on 18th Street, near Union Square (Le Pain Quotidien, if you know it)," he reveals, along with the searing observation, "I expected a flame-haired, wild-eyed provocateur; I got a well-fed middle-class man in his 60s." But perhaps the best is on McLaren's cancer, which was diagnosed only this year: "If he was ill with the cancer that killed him he did not let on. Back then, in 2007, he seemed in fine form." Pulitzer shortlist, surely.

She may want a cosy retirement for Gurkhas, but Joanna Lumley is rather tougher on regular old folk. "We still haven't worked out the endgame — how useful old people are, how wise, how much work they could be doing," she said yesterday. "They could be adoptive grannies, they could be the most wonderful care system for children when the school day is ended. Before their parents have come home from work, how lovely to have a million grannies making them apple pie." One can't help wondering if she was inspired by a comedy currently running at the National, Really Old, Like Forty Five, in which the elderly are expected to adopt a grandchild as a way of deferring death. Playwright Tamsin Oglesby's view is bleakly humorous, but Lumley seems to mean it.

They try, they really do, to keep up with the 21st century. But for some Oxford colleges it can be a little taxing. Take Magdalen, Oxford (founded 1458); it has a page of "lost alumni" on its website, graduates it simply cannot track down. High and low they look, but still no sign of 1991 graduate Martha Lane Fox. Where could she be? Any ideas? Perhaps the interweb would be able to help...

The fashion world lost a leading champion of affordable couture on Monday with the death of Sidney Burstein, who co-founded Browns on South Molton Street with his wife Joan. The Bursteins, married for 65 years, were jointly responsible for turning the small London boutique into the home of new designers who went on to greatness, including John Galliano, Jil Sander and Sonia Rykiel, whose daughter Nathalie married Burstein's son Sidney. Brown's was a favourite with glamourpuss shoppers such as Britt Ekland. The funeral is in Golders Green today.

As if to mark the 300th anniversary of the Statute of Anne yesterday, the first copyright law, a jolly-old copyright spat has bubbled over between Rupert Murdoch's biographer Michael Wolff and a news aggregator website which accuses him of stealing stories. Sharon Waxman, founder of The Wrap, accuses Wolff's site Newser of reporting her stories without crediting them or linking to her site. "If you are aggregating content... at least have the good manners to follow Internet etiquette," she fumes. "Either send us traffic or give us money." But Wolff has no plans to stop. "We don't owe them squat," he says. We don't think Wolff can count on Murdoch's support on this one.

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