Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (16/01/11)

Needs no alarm clock

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Is it time Downing Street had a quiet word with Michael Gove about his wife's columns in The Times? Journalist Sarah Vine, wife of the Education Secretary, is singularly failing to transmit the message that we're all in this together. Last week, she piled into the great marmalade debate by revealing that she's a fan of Harrods' Glitterati Orange and Lime, which contains edible glitter and is priced at a ludicrous £8.95 per jar. "It's such fun — and it tastes good too," she trilled. So addicted to marmalade is Vine, she once got Paul McKenna to hypnotise her to quit. Perhaps it's time someone woke Lady Marmalade up.

The Hungarians have taken over presidency of the EU to a rather wobbly start. First they struggled to defend a controversial new law on press freedom, which observers say is basically state-sanctioned gagging. Then there was a hoo-ha over a carpet installed in Brussels, which features a "nationalist" map of Greater Hungary from 1848, when it governed large swathes of Slovakia and Romania. So, everyone will be hoping tonight's concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, attended by Ed Vaizey and various Euro bigwigs, will soothe some brows. The evening begins calmly enough with Haydn's "Oxford" symphony, but is followed by Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, the high point of which is a portrayal of a sudden and violent storm. Also on the bill is the explosive Piano Concerto No 1 by Liszt. In the audience will be Hungary's president, Pal Schmitt, a former Olympic medallist – in fencing. All in all, it promises to be a muscular evening....

Hats off to Vanessa Feltz for her impressive work ethic: she plans to carry on hosting her mid-morning (but pre-recorded) The Vanessa Show on Channel Five, despite doing a live show daily on BBC Radio London, and taking over the dawn slot on Radio 2 as of tomorrow. The operatic broadcaster has seen off plenty of jealous rivals and unkind comments about her weight over the years. On the radio last week, she said Eamonn Holmes had remarked that her TV career would come to an end with the arrival of HD TV, which cruelly exposes every wrinkle. We suspect he was joking, though he of all people should be wary of such jokes: last year, he consulted lawyers after a BBC sketch show poked fun at his weight.

For sale: one literary festival. Lillian Avon, the energetic founder of the Bournemouth Literary Festival, has put it on the market. Quite what you get for your money is unclear, but Avon says she wants to "move on to other personal projects". Cynics may see it as the work of an impressive operator, who only created the festival in 2005, but you have to admire her dynamism. In 2007, she prompted some loosening of collars in the seaside resort, staging an erotic fiction workshop and proclaiming Bournemouth's "stuffy" image to be a thing of the past. Where would be we without our Lillians?

Lyricist Sir Tim Rice stopped giving money to the Tories four years ago, when he realised he was "unloved" by them. In a mournful piece in The Spectator, he wrote that "Dave and his young, dynamic, thrusting team ... couldn't give a stuff what I think". Now, though, it might be time for a rapprochement. Yesterday, he fired off a letter to The Times, pointing out that the coalition did rather well in the Oldham by-election. "The Labour Party polled 14,718 votes and the coalition parties 15,641. 'Winner' Debbie Abrahams says this is a wake-up call for the coalition. Why?" Time to bring Sir Lion King back into the fold?

While London audiences marvel at Cirque du Soleil's latestheart-in-mouth acrobatics, council officials in King's Lynn have been furiously arm-crossing and tut-tutting as another circus comes to town. Apparently, the Circus of Horrors has been told to scrap one of its acts, because it involves smoking on stage. Performers are astonished at the council's selective health and safety anxieties, given that other acts in the show involve a sword-swallower swallowing a revolving electric drill, a person pumping 300,000 volts through his body, several fire-eaters and trapeze artists, and a dwarf who pulls a vacuum cleaner with his penis.

News that an Indian airline has placed a multibillion-pound order for a record 180 planes from European manufacturer Airbus is being cheered as a triumph for Carla Bruni. Her visit to India with Sarko last year is said to be what clinched it. One insider reports that a French diplomat commented, "If this deal had hung on Sarkozy's 2007 visit to Delhi, it would never have happened." Ah, if only Kate Middleton had been sitting in on those Fifa meetings.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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