Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (22/08/10)

An A* in social studies

Share
Related Topics

For years the people of Devizes were represented by one of the grander MPs in the house, Michael Ancram, the 13th Marquess of Lothian, a millionaire whose wife is the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk.

Alas, he was found to have made expenses claims for a swimming pool boiler. Now he has been replaced by Claire Perry, an energetic 46-year-old mother of three who keeps her constituents up to date via Twitter. Her maiden speech was on the importance of tackling rural poverty, a noble sentiment and a big issue in this rural and military constituency. But it is not a subject she appears to be personally familiar with: she has just put her six-bedroom rectory on the market for £3.25m. Plus ça change.

Piers Morgan has suffered a blow almost as humiliating as the time he was frogmarched out of the Daily Mirror six years ago for running fake torture photos. Immigration authorities in the US are wondering why they should award him a work permit ahead of his new job on CNN. This puts in jeopardy the £5m deal he has signed to replace Larry King on his nightly show in the autumn. Piers already presents America's Got Talent, but only during the summer, so he uses a limited visa. For his new job he would need a full work permit, which is hard to obtain. He will have to prove there is no US citizen equally suited to the job. That shouldn't be a problem: there can't be another Piers Morgan out there. Surely?

Stephen Sondheim's musicals have been called "difficult", but they rarely come under the category of "farce". Not so the new production of Into the Woods in Regent's Park, London, whose spectacular set, with all its ladders and walkways, has caused actors to slip and trip unbidden. Built into towering trees, this vertical maze has already claimed a few casualties. "One actress was concussed during rehearsals," whispers my man with the first aid kit, "and another actor slithered down a flight of wooden steps." On opening night a swing collapsed under Beverly Rudd, right, who plays Little Red Riding Hood, but, ever the professional, she carried on regardless. The good news is that Sondheim himself, 80 this year, who saw a preview, has given the production his blessing. "Carry on Sondheim," we say.

It's usual at this time of year to express outrage at a case of a straight-As A-level student from a straitened background failing to land a place at university. The tradition dates back to the Laura Spence affair. Gordon Brown waded in after Spence (state-school educated) had been rejected by Magdalen College, Oxford, despite achieving four As. Writer and Magdalen graduate Duncan Fallowell mischievously recalls a conversation he had at the time with the college's president, Anthony Smith, who, despite insisting Magdalen was open to all, couldn't help mentioning that the crown prince of Bhutan was an undergraduate. "Yes, and Prince Tomohito of Japan was up in my day," recalled Fallowell. "Ah yes, but he wasn't a crown prince," replied Smith, quick as a flash.

The RSPB seems like a cuddly charity – they love birds! – but not according to the Countryside Alliance. The two charities have been bickering over the best way to control hen harriers in the north of England, which, the CA says, as predatory birds need to be managed, while the RSPB says they should be allowed to breed freely. To resolve the matter, the RSPB is to carry out a "community consultation", with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to be conducted by a supposedly independent consultancy team, Glead Ecological & Environmental Services (GEES). So that's it? Oh, no. The CA has refused to take part, because, it says, "the commissioned consultant was, until only recently, employed by the RSPB". Deep waters.

Some say The Daily Telegraph isn't what is was, but the old girl's all right. "Whatever happened to nicknames?" boomed one letter-writer yesterday. "Among my late father's military friends were Squeeler Wheeler, Splosh Jones, Boy Browning, Tiger Urquhart, Tinny Dean and Pudding Pye."

m.bell@ independent.co.uk

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
Photo match: Nicola Sturgeon on the balance beam on 27 April. Just like that other overnight sensation, Russian Olympian Olga Korbut, in 1972  

Election catch-up: SNP surge, Ed Balls’s giraffe noises, and Cameron’s gaffe

John Rentoul
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk