Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

Second most powerful job on earth


Not since Ted Heath has there been such a sulk in politics. Nine months after he lost the mayoral elections, Ken Livingstone is still sore as a bear. Tomorrow Boris Johnson opens the new Docklands Light Railway extension to Woolwich, a project Ken spent years getting off the ground. Cheesed off that Boris will take the credit, Ken staged a separate launch yesterday. "This is the most significant transport development since the development of the docks," he told me from Woolwich. "It would be nice if we could have a launch of this sort every couple of years, but Boris has stopped all the projects we had planned, except for Crossrail, which he is obliged to go along with by the Government." Ken went on in this vein for some time. Shouldn't he just, like, get over it?

Where we lead, others follow. Bono, a former guest editor of The Independent, has gone back to journalism by signing a contract to write for 'The New York Times'. Covering a "broad range of topics", the U2 frontman has been hailed by comment editor Andrew Rosenthal as "an extraordinary man who thinks deeply about his art and the major issues confronting the world". He'll be doing a podcast too, so expect a "best of" compilation within the year.

David Cameron is understandably keen to keep onside with Barack Obama. Hence John Redwood is, I'm told, being "monitored" for daring to question the president-elect's silence over the war in the Middle East. In the past 10 days he has written three blog entries on the matter. The most recent, on Friday, says: "Isn't it interesting that yesterday the president-elect treated us to a huge statement on his economic policy, shortly after telling us he cannot comment on the Israeli/Palestine conflict because you can only have one president at a time? The one-president-at-a-time doctrine clearly only applies to tricky issues where the president-elect does not wish to come off the fence. I find that disappointing." Get back in your box, John.

An intriguing piece in 'Paris Match' suggests we should have known Bernard Madoff was a wrong 'un. The swindler to the stars was apparently involved in an insider trading scandal during the 1980s. According to the judge, Madoff acquired 13,000 shares in US company Triangle five days before shares in Pechiney were offered to the country, which had the effect off quintupling the Triangle shares' value. He was let off the hook after arguing he was just acting as a broker, and prosecutors chased some easier targets instead.

Ping. A press release lands in my inbox, endorsed, apparently, by Jeremy Paxman. He is asking me to consider donating an organ. "It's not easy talking about your death or the death of those you love," he coos, "but I would encourage everyone to think about organ donation and to share their wishes with loved ones." That doesn't sound like the splenetic Jeremy we know and love. Perhaps he's already given his spleen away.

Proof, finally, that the Lords have little time for their colleagues in the Commons. Just before the Christmas recess, Baroness Thomas of Winchester asked the chairman of committees "whether he will take steps to increase the temperature in the Palace of Westminster on Monday mornings during the winter months". Lord Brabazon got straight to it and, with Black Rod's help, has ensured that "the temperature in the House of Lords is raised and that it is maintained". No mention, though, of the Commons, where MPs, presumably, must lump the cold snap or bung on a woolly.

Tony Blair gave an impressive performance on 'Le Grand Journal' on Canal+, France's trendiest evening news show, on Thursday night. I gather his French was impeccable. Asked about the UK joining the euro, Blair said, "Umm, it's a very sensitive subject back home", to which the questioner replied, "Yes, but we are in Paris; no one in London is watching us." Alas TB didn't fall for that one, replying limply: "There are strong political reasons for us to join eventually, but then you have to take into account economic reasons... and you have to look at our polls at the moment, which are very much against it."

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