Matthew Bell: The IoS diary

Unashamed luxury in a time of austerity


As an enthusiastic Twitterer she gets full marks for being "on trend". So it pains me to reveal Sarah Brown has gone two steps back by joining Facebook, which some readers may recall was once all the rage. The Prime Minister's wife managed to resist the temptation to join when it was fashionable, but now the circus has moved on she has quietly signed up. Although so far she only has 24 friends, they are a carefully selected group, numbering Piers Morgan, Martha Lane Fox, Emma Freud, Claudia Winkleman and the Times columnist Janice Turner. But perhaps the most intriguing friend is Jo Dipple, the former senior adviser to Gordon Brown who caused him some embarrassment by quitting last autumn. Who will befriend her next – Damian McBride?

When Peter Hain once suggested Labour might raise the top level tax rate, Blair and Brown were furious and publicly rebuked him. It's said that Gordon even telephoned various newspaper editors to denounce Peter Hain as a "moron". It was an interesting choice of words, one famously used in a song by Jilted John, "Gordon is a moron". Alas this refrain is often used of the Prime Minister, appropriately enough now that he has raised the higher tax rate to 50p.

Watch out Miss California – Alan Duncan wants to kill you. The shadow Leader of the House of Commons made the astonishing threat in an unguarded moment during the recording of Have I Got News For You, which was broadcast on Friday. In a sequence about Miss California, who believes same sex marriages are wrong, Alan Duncan appeared to have a sense of humour failure, saying "If you read that Miss California had been murdered you'll know it was me, won't you?" The remark drew a sharp intake of breath from the audience, but Alan Duncan now says it was all just a joke. "I haven't seen it yet so I can't really comment, but of course it was in jest – it is a comedy show after all," he told me, "I'm sure she's very beautiful and that if we were to meet we would love each other. I have no plans to kill her. I'll send her a box of chocolates – unpoisoned."

Intriguing to hear Ken Boston, the man responsible for the SATs fiasco, accuse Ed Balls and Jim Knight of "sexing up" evidence against him. The former exams chief says he was wrongly portrayed by the two ministers in evidence they gave to an official inquiry. Boston says they had been plotting to oust him since March, but as it happens he didn't resign until December, when a Sunday newspaper revealed he had lavish perks written into his contract, including membership of a yacht club. It remains unclear how the paper got its story, but in the light of the McBride scandal perhaps it's not so hard to imagine.

The rivalry between David Cameron and Boris Johnson intensifies, as Francis Elliott and my colleague James Hanning reveal in their revised biography of Cameron. Indeed communications between the pair are so strained that an insider admits they only speak "from time to time". When the Evening Standard claimed Boris may only run for one term as mayor, Cameron did not ring Boris, but left it to his right-hand man Andy Coulson, who spoke to Boris's senior aide Guto Harri, a former BBC journalist. Asked by a journalist about Boris's plans he said "Who knows? Do you know where you'll be in five years time?"

She stars in the new Terminator film out next month and has a career many Hollywood starlets can only dream of. But Helena Bonham Carter has little interest in the usual pursuits of A-list actresses. Last week she popped in for the opening night of an exhibition of portraits by society photographer Cecil Beaton at the Chris Beetles Gallery in central London. The gamine actress sensibly arrived early to snap up a portrait of her great grandmother Margot Asquith, priced at £3,500. Red dots were appearing fast, with pictures of Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud and Audrey Hepburn selling particularly well.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?