Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

Braced for the next expenses row


Eric Pickles's call for "less bubbles and more bubbly activity" was taken to mean a ban on champagne-quaffing at the Tory conference, which David Cameron rightly ignored. But what the party chairman really meant was that he wanted to see delegates put all their energy into the task in hand, whatever that may be. And Pickles duly led the way: I can reveal he stayed up singing karaoke till the small hours at a fringe after-party, achieving the almost unheard of feat of scoring 100 per cent on Singstar, the computerised karaoke game. As aficionados will tell you, even professional singers have struggled to get full marks. A source in his office confirms the song in question was "Here Comes the Sun" – no doubt a heartfelt welcome to Rupert Murdoch's Tory-backing tabloid.

Oldie wine writer Malcolm Gluck has always cocked a snook at the grandees of the wine world, railing against their snobbery and obsession with ritual. Until now they have responded with polite smiles and a wide berth at tastings. But his latest book, The Great Wine Swindle: How Snobs Are Ruining Your Wine, has gone down like a warm, corked riesling. Asked by the publisher to comment on the paperback, critic Andrew Jefford wrote back: "I'm afraid the sad truth is that Malcolm is an effective self-publicist, but little else. No one in the wine world takes him seriously. You are therefore likely to have better success promoting this worthless book by approaching those who have nothing to do with the wine industry and no knowledge of it. Best of luck!" Gluck is delighted when I call. "There is so much that is ludicrous and fraudulent about the wine industry, and I've been unhesitating in exposing it." Earlier this year the trade magazine Harper's dropped his column within days of a change of ownership.

With Henry Conway adding so much to the gaiety of nations, it's hard to mind the scandal that first made him famous. But anyone who still feels robbed by Derek Conway's use of our taxes to pay his sons as "parliamentary researchers" now has a chance to claw some of it back. Press TV, the weirdo Iranian state-funded TV station, is finding it so hard to get bums on seats for Derek Conway's chat show that they are offering to pay people to attend. Ads running on the community website Gumtree offer £10 to anyone who'll fill a space. Form an orderly queue!

Metropolitan members' club Shoreditch House in east London likes to bill itself as family friendly, but little did organisers of its literary salon imagine they were providing a family-expansion service. Author Jenny Colgan amused guests of this year's event by telling how she and her husband had conceived another child after the previous year's inaugural event. "We had got a babysitter and went for dinner and so on, and nine months later our baby was born." As a result of the pregnancy Colgan was unable to go out much, so when she set a scene in her new novel in a trendy club, she chose Shoreditch House as the model. What publicity – immortalised in print and flesh too.

James Naughtie used his mercifully brief speech at the Man Booker Prize to warn against the over-commercialisation of publishing, but I fear his plea may have fallen on deaf ears at Apex Publishing, publishers of a new autobiography by David Van Day, a reality TV star apparently, and formerly one half of Seventies pop duo Dollar. A colleague was astonished to receive an email asking if he would provide a line of endorsement to appear on the book's cover – "something short would be great!". The book hasn't even been finished yet, let alone sent out for review. Shameless.

The great thing about fashion is you make it up as you go along. So according to Vogue, internet dating is now cool. "It's like Louis Vuitton bunny ears: probably plenty of fun but pretty scary for most people too," trills Lauren Milligan. "Or like your winter Ugg boot obsession: great in the comfort of your own home, but not something you would brag about... until now." Why now? Because Condé Nast has just launched its own dating website,, of course. The idea is to match Vogue-reading girls with GQ-reading boys to "create matches made in style heaven". Aaah.

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