Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

Your uninvited guest


Further to my colleague Andrew Johnson's report on the Art Barter fair in Whitechapel – in which pieces of art are swapped for anything but cash – I hear Evan Davis is among those who have left a bid, but he fears he may have to give it away if he wins. The
Today programme presenter left a bid for a piece of sculpture, offering the chance to be
Today's artist in residence for a day in return. "I don't know what I would do with it anyway," he says, musing on the fact that he is effectively giving away a corporation asset. "I suppose I'd better give it to the programme." Bidders will discover today the identity of the artists who created the jaunty pieces of modern art; they include Gavin Turk, Tracey Emin and Gary Hume. Davis tells me that among the bids is a man's foreskin and "a night with two hot lesbians". "I asked the gallery manager how he would take his 50 per cent commission," he quips. But the prize for wit must go to the person who offered painting lessons.

Is it becoming the fashion to say "no" to Madonna? Latest to join the craze is Bikram Choudhury, the Los Angeles guru of hot yoga. According to an instructor who recently attended a course with Bikram, he has been receiving a lot of demands from the pop diva. She had been asking for private lessons, reported Choudhury. He never gives private lessons, whoever is asking, and he told her just to join a class like everybody else. "For my yoga you leave your shoes at the door and your ego there too," is his mantra. Got that, Madge?

David Cameron gave the term Red Tory a new meaning when he blundered into a gaffe while giving a speech to launch Phillip Blond's think tank ResPublica at the National Liberal Club. He started talking about public service reform and how much he hated that terminology because it sounded like something run by management consultants (of which Tory foreign affairs spokesman William Hague was one, as it happens). Glancing nervously around he realised there were several rather important ones in the throng. "Er, there may be some management consultants in this room," he added hastily. "Just to be clear, I've nothing against management consultants – some of my best friends are management consultants." Now there's an election-winning slogan.

Whatever happened to full disclosure? In her column on Wednesday, Guardian scribe Jenni Russell made an impassioned case for Ed Miliband, the "passionate, funny, self-deprecating" climate change minister, while his brother, David, was written off as "remote, self-satisfied" and "smug". The Foreign Secretary has apparently shown "no sign that he is thinking deeply about politics", despite most people saying his problem is that he is rather too cerebral. No, the one who can save the Labour Party is young Ed, says Ruzza, explaining that what the electorate desperately wants is politicians who can talk clearly about the environment. But don't we also want columnists who are impartial and tell us that the man they are plugging for PM is also godfather to her child?

As heir to the Spanish throne, Felipe, Prince of Asturias, has more titles even than Peter Mandelson, being Prince of Viana, Prince of Girona, Duke of Montblanc, Count of Cervera and Lord of Balaguer. But is he about to annex Britain to his long list of principalities? Giving a speech at the Foreign Press Association awards last week, he prompted some nervous shifting of bums on seats as he started to list all our assets now owned by Spain. "I fly into a British airport, and it's owned by Spain," he said, "Then I go to a cash-point, and the bank too is owned by us." He went on to list several more examples, before, mercifully, Sandi Toksvig swooped in to dish out the gongs. Top among these was Journalist of the Year, which went to Martin Hickman of The Independent for his story about the environmental damage caused by palm oil plantations.

Happy birthday to the Groucho Club, alma mater to London's most vivacious media types and shelebriddies, which has celebrated its 25th birthday with a triumphant refurbishment of all its bars and bedrooms. After a thorough inspection, I can confirm that the sick has been mopped up, the velveteen banqettes scrubbed, and there is absolutely no illegal drug-taking anywhere on the premises. Phew!

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