Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (19/12/10)

Never afraid to walk into a blizzard

Share
Related Topics

He is the saviour of transparent journalism – though he is far too modest to tell you himself. But even John Pilger isn't as objective as you might expect. When he's not raising money for Julian Assange's bail money, he presides over judging the Martha Gellhorn Prize, an annual gong in memory of the throaty foreign correspondent. Last year, Pilger was keen to award the prize to Assange, even though entrants must submit two long articles of 1,500 words or more to qualify, and Assange is not known for his journalism. Other judges disagreed, and The Independent's Johaan Hari won. Now, I'm told, he is even more resolved that Assange should win, though fellow judges are yet to be convinced. As it happens, they were due to meet at Pilger's house yesterday morning, but cancelled because of the snow. Mysteriously, he also lost all power at his home. Let's hope the dark forces persecuting Assange haven't turned on Pilger.

Doesn't the timing of Tom Baldwin's appointment as Ed Miliband's chief spinner tell you everything about the train crash that lies ahead? For it came in the week that a senior Labour MP called for hard drugs to be legalised – including cocaine, a stimulant with which Baldwin is alleged to have more than a passing acquaintance. Bob Ainsworth's surprise outburst caused Miliband much embarrassment, and he was forced to rush out a statement distancing himself from the controversial position. How will anyone take Miliband's next statement on drug use seriously, now that "Snorter" Baldwin is in charge?

Alarming news for the posh but poor users of the London Library, the rarefied St James's Square club, which appears set to lose its charitable status. Members have been told that they will no longer be able to claim Gift Aid on their membership, a sign that the library's long-running battle to maintain its charitable status has been lost. The news will be a blow to less well-off members struggling to cope with a massive price hike in the annual fee, which rose from £210 to £375 in 2008. The controversial fee move was spearheaded by the playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, but was vigorous opposed by other members, including Bamber Gascoigne. Part of the library's appeal has always been that it provides a haven for up-and-coming writers in central London. The latest newsletter tries to sugar the pill by announcing that members are entitled to free use of Blacks, the private members' club, between 11am and 6pm. But apart from being a 20-minute walk away, the louche Soho club is unlikely to hold much appeal for the hard-working writers who actually use the library to get away from all that.

Model Charlie Gilmour, stepson of Pink Floyd guitarist David, was the surprise face of the student riots. But Dad's £80m fortune is an unfortunate distraction from Charlie's otherwise impeccable revolutionary credentials. As a tabloid "special investigation" – it was more a rifle through Who's Who – "revealed", his biological father, the poet Heathcote Williams, founded the Albion Free State in the 1970s, when squatters staked out a corner of Notting Hill and named it a utopian country, free from government control. And his mother, Polly Samson, is the daughter of one-time communists. In her poetic new book, Perfect Lives, a character even writes of taking her infant son to protests . "Having Angus in his pushchair made me feel historic, like Demeter charged with a flaming torch." To the manner born, then.

His acting roles have included Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, Ian Brady in Longford, and Captain Haddock in the forthcoming Tintin film. But Andy Serkis has clearly set his children's sights on High Art. The Serkis family were among a star-spangled audience at the English National Ballet's new Nutcracker on Wednesday, rubbing shoulders with Kate Moss, Sadie Frost and Jerry Hall, who had three Jagger children in tow. While some snipers wondered why so many slebs had attended the Swarovski-sponsored performance, at which crystal-filled goodie bags were doled out afterwards, the three young Serkis children showed genuine appreciation. "This is SO much better than last year" announced one, knowledgeably. And he was right.

Will it never end? Ever since James Naughtie accidentally called the Culture Secretary the c-word live on air, presenters of the Today programme have been stumbling all over the place. Naughtie referred to WikiLeaks as Wikilikes, then yesterday Sarah Montague called Guardian critic Nicholas Lezard a literary cricket. To be fair, they were discussing how he is having to stay up all night to listen to the Ashes. He must have been too tired to notice.

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

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention