Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

Raised on Sesame Street

Share

Once tutor to Princes William and Harry, Rory Stewart, in his latest incarnation as Conservative prospective candidate for Penrith, has found himself the unlikely subject of intrigue. Craig Murray, renegade former ambassador to Uzbekistan, claims in his blog that Stewart worked as an MI6 officer in Afghanistan. While it's true Stewart was educated at Eton, received training from the British armed forces, and has yet to marry, the comparisons with James Bond appear to end there. "I've never met Craig Murray and I have no idea why he is saying this," he tells me when I call, "It's not just false but extremely dangerous. I've been doing charity work in countries where people are already at risk and his claims will only endanger them further." Stewart's father is even more succinct: "It's bollocks."

Nobody could accuse the Foreign Office of being out of touch. News reaches me that its palatial Whitehall headquarters were used to host an intimate fundraising dinner for Aids charity The Terrence Higgins Trust on Tuesday, at which Cilla Black and Esquire editor Jeremy Langmead were among 15 guests of FCO minister Chris Bryant. Sarah Brown even dropped by before a cosy supper in the Locarno suite, usually used for stuffy mandarin banquets. Fifty charity dinners are being held across London before diners congregate at the Cuban nightspot Floridita. To economise, I'm told canny FCO caterers used wine left over from a recent state banquet to honour the Indian president, including "a particularly fine Monbazillac." Needs must.

The Daily Mail hasn't stinted in its coverage of the Simon Mann affair, and is said to be a possible buyer of his story, if he decides to tell all. I understand media law firm Harbottle and Lewis are now handling Mann's interests. But you might have expected to read slightly less about Mark "Scratcher" Thatcher's involvement, given that his wife is Lady Francis Russell, sister-in-law of Lord Rothermere, proprietor of the Mail. Not a bit of it – yesterday's paper ran a double page spread asking whether Mann will now land "Scratcher" in jail. With friends like these...

The Spectator's website has vastly improved under the Andrew Neil regime, but a voice of dissent has emerged – from one of its own contributors. After two years blogging for them Clive Davis has taken his thoughts elsewhere and accuses their Coffee House blog of becoming a sanctuary for extremist right-wing loons. "If I were a BNP apparatchik I'd be pleased with the way Coffee House has become a sounding board for the party," he says, "The Spectator's masthead gives the loons that extra measure of cachet." Writing on his new blog clivedavisconfab.com, he says that when he voiced his unease to the Spec's editors, they were "intensely proud of their online clientele". Over to the Spec: "We stand by their right to express their voices," says a web bod. "If they were inciting racial hatred or murder we would take it down. There has certainly not been any falling out with Clive." But they may not take kindly to his take on the Spectator's slogan: "Champagne for the brain? More like meths, I'd say."

Leading members of London's blackerati turned out for the opening night of Kwame Kwei-Armah's play Seize the Day at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn on Monday, which imagines an Afro-Caribbean politician running for mayor. Actors Don Warrington and Eamonn Walker were there, but it was Hackney MP Diane Abbott, giggling throughout in her red plush seat, who nearly stole the show. She particularly enjoyed her own appearance in a pre-recorded video sequence. Kwame crept into the back of the stalls to watch her reaction, and, I'm told, was not disappointed by her whoops of glee.

Meanwhile over in Sloane Square, Sir Tom Stoppard was spotted loitering outside the Royal Court on Thursday, moments before curtains up of Lucy Prebble's hit play Enron. Critics have rightly waxed hysterical about the play and the production, which stars Sam West as Enron's chief exec Jeff Skilling, and have hailed its 28-year-old author as "a pretty Pinter" who has blown David Hare's take on recent financial crises out of the water. No wonder Sir Tom was nervous, puffing heavily on a fag before going in.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices