Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

With more tricks up its sleeve than Lord Janner


As the BNP's newly elected MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber district, Andrew Brons is campaigning to turf foreigners out of England. But I can reveal that the ruddy-faced former leader of the National Front is not quite as English as he might like us to think. Historian and genealogist Nick Barratt has dug up Brons's family tree and found his great grandfather was a German immigrant. "Conrad Brons was born in Germany in 1840 and came to this country as an immigrant, and didn't register for citizenship. He then married a London lass, Elizabeth, and they lived in the East End, where they would have witnessed all the immigration of the 1890s. It's everything his great-grandson stands against – economic migrants who don't register for citizenship."

Conductor Roger Norrington has had a lucky escape after his son and wife contracted swine flu. Tom Norrington was one of the Eton pupils who became infected, prompting the school to shut down for a week, and his mother Kay then got it while nursing him. But Sir Roger, who conducted last year's Last Night of the Proms, managed to resist the H1N1 virus by knocking back Tamiflu. "We just shut ourselves off, because otherwise we would have spread it around," says Lady Norrington. "One of the doctors I've spoken to said it was around in supermarkets right now. People could be walking around without knowing they have it." Mother and son have now recovered.

Joanna Lumley has opened the floodgates for celebrities who think they can twist the Prime Minister's arm. Explorer Ben Fogle tells me he is about to launch a campaign on behalf of the displaced people of Diego Garcia, the tiny atoll in the Pacific, who were booted out in the 1960s when it became a secretive, rendition-friendly military base. "They're all living in bedsits around Gatwick airport," says Fogle, "They want to go home but can't afford to. It's our duty to repatriate them." Fogle, who recently survived a flesh-eating bug he picked up while filming in Peru, adds he has always harboured political ambitions. Watch out!

Among those awarded gongs in yesterday's Queen's Birthday Honours list was Mitsuko Uchida, the internationally acclaimed classical pianist, who was made a Dame. Her partner is diplomat Robert Cooper, who used to be Tony Blair's international interventionism tsar. Happily for officials working on the honours list, Uchida, who is the daughter of an ambassador, also has strong royal backing. Her biggest fan is the Duke of Kent, who never misses a London performance and led a standing ovation (from the stalls) for her at the Royal Festival Hall last month.

One good thing, at least, will come out of Hazel Blears's resignation booboo. Yes, she admitted, she seriously damaged the party by resigning just before the elections, and yes, the BNP gained voters in Salford as a result, and yes, perhaps choosing to wear a badge saying "Rocking the boat" was wrong (having earlier claimed it happened by chance). But at least she will have some tips for women attending the panel debate she is due to speak at next month in the Commons, subject: "What do women have to do to get taken seriously?" None of the above, for example.

He was named composer of the year in last month's Classical Brit awards, but Howard Goodall isn't too grand for PR stunts. His musical of The Winter's Tale at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, is to feature a live sheep, and Goodall has agreed to audition the animals. "Local sheep-owners are being invited to flock to the theatre," says my man backstage. "Auditionees will be judged by Goodall and other experts on looks, confidence and ability to 'baa' in time to music. We want a sheep with a bit of glamour – not mutton dressed as lamb." Ewe get the idea....

Ping. An email from Zoo, tells us former minister Caroline Flint is "considering the offer of a five-figure sum" to appear on its pages. The former Europe minister may have posed for a women's magazine, but it seems unlikely she would whip her top off for the lads. And so it proves. Minutes later a flurry of emails from a frantic PR, clarifying that Flint is considering nothing of the sort: "Caroline would not even consider the offer to appear in Zoo magazine." Well, you never know.

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