Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

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It was supposed to be a highlight of the literary summer calendar, but this year's Ledbury Poetry Festival has been ruined by the interference of bossy Home Office bods. Three internationally acclaimed poets, one from Indonesia and two from Morocco, were barred from entering the country on the grounds they might try to outstay their welcome. Dorothea Rosa Herliany, who has published eight volumes of poetry in Indonesia, had her visa application rejected by a Home Office official who said, "I am not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that you are a genuine visitor," despite providing her invitation to the festival. Moroccan poets Hassan Najmi and Widad Benmoussa were also denied entry. Chloe Garner, the festival director, is distraught. "This is hugely embarrassing for the festival," she says. "I feel ashamed that the UK is effectively becoming a fortress."

The Daily Telegraph's expenses scoop may already be receding into journalistic history, but not for long. I can reveal that one of the newspaper's chief reporters, Gordon Rayner, has landed a six-figure deal to write up the full inside story. The deal is understood to have been struck with Bantam Press, which is owned by Random House. Although Rayner was a key figure in the unearthing of the full juicy details of MPs' expenses, some hacks are wondering why Rayner has landed the deal, not, say, Holly Watt or Robert Winnett. In the light of the Guardian's allegations of illegal practice at the News of the World, it will be interesting to see what Rayner has to say about the buying of the expenses disk, which was, in theory, illegal.

Distinguished former spook Fred Holroyd is poised to sue the author of a new book on espionage which makes a raft of erroneous claims. Gordon Thomas's book, Inside British Intelligence, dedicates two pages to Holroyd, a former British Army officer who became an MI6 agent in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. According to Holroyd, all the facts are wrong, the suspicion being Thomas has confused him with another agent altogether. This is embarrassing for Thomas, who has written a number of other books on espionage. Holroyd became something of a hero after exposing his maltreatment at the hands of the secret service, who at one point incarcerated him in a mental hospital in an attempt to discredit him. He later resigned his commission in disgust and blew the whistle on the service's dirty tricks.

Fourteen years after Jonathan Aitken quit the Cabinet he has regained the title of Hon. The former minister has been given a new role in public life after a lengthy rehabilitation following his stint in prison for perjury. He has been named the Hon Secretary for Barkston Square Gardens in Earls Court, where he lives. Although perhaps less prestigious than Chief Secretary to the Treasury, it is an important job. I'm told that top of his agenda is securing a children's play area in one corner of the garden.

Twitter ye not: Alastair Campbell has been making flirty online comments – with men. Like many people who you might have thought had better things to do with their time, Tony Blair's former motor-mouth is a regular user of Twitter. He must also, like many vain people, have a search for his own name programmed on to his computer. For when a blogger unknown to Campbell updated his status and mentioned his name, Campbell promptly got in touch. Someone called Mike T-D updated his status to say "Giles Coren is my new Guilty Crush. (Well, one has to move on from Alastair Campbell at some stage.)" Despite not "following" Mike, Campbell soon wrote back, saying "Why move on I say?" Fancy that!

Luvvies in the West End are so sick of rats scuttling around their theatres that they are calling for managers to buy in cats. The old-fashioned solution is being backed by the actors' union Equity, who want to improve working conditions in London's theatreland. Famous past pussies include Beerbohm, named after Herbert Beerbohm, who lived at the Gielgud and had an obituary in The Stage. But Richard Pulford of the Society of London Theatres is sniffy about the proposal: "My understanding is that rats normally see off cats."

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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