Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (18/04/10)

No party can be without it

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chiacchiere in Tuscany is that Silvio Berlusconi has bought a villa there. The Italian premier is said to have fallen out of love with his estate in Sardinia after last summer's scandal and now has his eye on a sprawling 12th century gaff in the hills near Siena. Tuscany is a red-voting region, and Silvio may be seeking to ingratiate himself with the Tuscans. His representatives say he is not buying, just looking, but my man in the olive press says a deal was completed last Saturday. La Selva, near the town of Monteroni d'Arbia, comes with a medieval village, olive groves and three lakes, and is valued at about £22m. I'm told Berlusconi recently went house-hunting further south, round Montalcino, which is the home of Brunello wine, but changed his mind after being booed by the locals and called rude names.

Russell Brand and Andrew Sachs emerged from last year's scandal with their careers intact, but Sachs's grand-daughter Georgina Baillie looks like she's heading the way of Jonathan Ross. The one-time Goth stripper has filmed the pilot of a new vampire sitcom, and so far the critics have been less than enthusiastic. Vampire Georgina stars Baillie as a pretty young blood-sucker who confesses her misdemeanours to the camera from her bed. Manuel has gone down in TV history as one of the greatest sitcom characters of all time, but we fear the talent has failed to cascade down the generations. If you don't believe me, see for yourself at

With Nick Clegg winning the race, now might be a good time to iron out some of those muddled policies, such as the absolute opposition to nuclear power. This has caused some embarrassment after the candidate for Maldon, Essex, expressed her apparent support for the redevelopment of Bradwell nuclear power station. "We have the experience and it will bring employment to the area," said Elfreda Tealby-Watson. But Clegg's office has swept in to clarify the Lib Dem position: "It could be seen as understandable that many of the constituents would be in favour of refurbishing Bradwell, as it would be key to the local economy and job creation. However, this in no way changes her own stance on nuclear power nor the party's federal policy." So that's all clear.

Damage limitation to the Tories' pink vote continues after Chris Grayling said B&B owners should be allowed to turn away gay couples. Now Greg Hands, candidate for Chelsea and Fulham, has written a gushing article in praise of Peter Tatchell, the voice of gay rights, calling him "a hero". Tatchell, who supports the Green Party, is a little unnerved: "It is exceedingly generous. I blush," he says. "I am getting praise from some very unlikely quarters these days. I don't think I have changed. Have I?" Is it all just a cynical ploy, we wonder. "I don't think so. Greg seems very genuine. I guess there are some decent, honourable Conservatives, and he's one of them." Aw.

Is Michael Moore getting too big for his boots? The film-maker behind Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11 has spent five years making a documentary about the Manic Street Preachers but will not release it unless it goes big. Now Nicky Wire, bassist of the cult Welsh band, feels it should be released without too much fuss. "He should just flog it to Sky Arts for a few grand," he told an audience at last weekend's Laugharne Weekend. "But he wants to get it into the Sundance Festival and all that." Wire was best friends with Richie Edwards, the lead singer who went missing in 1995, and is cynical about the cottage industry that has sprouted up around his death, such as the forthcoming novel called Richard by journalist Ben Myers. "I don't think he knew Richie. He's not even Welsh."

Followers of fashion have been thronging to the Victoria and Albert Museum where an exhibition of Grace Kelly's dresses opened yesterday. But visitors hoping to see her wedding dress in the "bridal" section of the show discovered it, er, wasn't there. It turns out curators have decided it is too fragile to travel from the Philadelphia museum to which she donated it after her wedding 50 years ago. You can see the frock she wore in her civil ceremony, points out a spokesman, but where's the romance in that?

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