Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

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As two more inquiries are launched into phone-hacking, you have to wonder why all those previous efforts failed so dismally. The Press Complaints Commission says it was lied to in 2007 and 2009; but what of Lawrence Abramson, the lawyer appointed by the News of the World to conduct its own inquiry in 2007? Back then he was a partner at top firm Harbottle & Lewis, but has since moved to Fladgate. Hoping to give him a chance to explain how he failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing, I gave him a tinkle last week. On Wednesday, his secretary told me he was out of the office all day; on Thursday, he was away from his desk every time I called. Even on Friday, after several messages had been left on his machine, Mr Abramson was unable to come to the phone, which went straight to voicemail in the end. Why so coy?

Sir David and Frederick Barclay, the Gilbert and George of Fleet Street, have caused "atmospheric havoc" on Sark, according to the family of the island's most famous resident, Mervyn Peake. It was the Gormenghast author's centenary yesterday, marked by the publication of a new book by his widow, Maeve Gilmore. Speaking at the launch, his son Sebastian told me the family still own their house on Sark, the idyllic Channel island, but that the Arcadian atmosphere known by his father has gone since the Barclay twins moved in in 1993. They live in a pink fortress on Brecqhou, an outcrop to the west of the island, and own many businesses on Sark, repeatedly challenging Sark's feudal system. "It's a terrible shame," says Peake. "But they are so rich and powerful, the other islanders cannot resist their demands."

Badgers have been in the news as Environment minister Caroline Spelman decides whether, and how, they should be culled. It's been in her in-tray since the coalition was formed, but B-day has been repeatedly delayed. So when she turned up to discuss it at a committee on Monday, colleagues were surprised to find her distributing photocopies of Harry Mount's article about badgers from last week's IoS. It was, she told them, the best summary of the issue she had seen. While we're delighted to provide a service, some committee members wondered why she hadn't found time to summarise the issue herself.

Arianna Huffington faced tough questioning from the BBC's Richard Bacon at a debate to launch the London bureau of the Huffington Post, her online community of bloggers. Bacon wanted to know why the Greek millionaire isn't giving her 9,000 bloggers any of the $315m (£200m) she is receiving from the sale of HuffPo to AOL. Arianna waffled on about it not being that kind of model. Also disgracing himself was Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former spin-doctor, who never tires of promoting himself (a new volume of diaries is out). As he began pronouncing on the phone-hacking, he was asked if Rebekah Brooks wasn't a friend. To which he replied, "She was."

Security was tight at the Spectator summer party, but that didn't stop Taki marching in with four extra guests. One guest, not in his posse, was begging to let her daughter in when the Greek playboy swaggered past with his gang, which included Lord Johnson Somerset, and Lily Robinson, daughter of Withnail and I director Bruce. "I am Taki the first; this is Taki the second," he announced. "That is the current Mrs Taki, and that is the future Mrs Taki. And that is the future Taki's future Mrs Taki." "Everyone laughed," says my mole. "But it was one rule for him and another for the rest of us."

Timothy Spall was visibly enjoying himself at the Harry Potter premier on Thursday, staying late at the after-party at Old Billingsgate. While he didn't join Helena Bonham Carter and Emma Watson for air-punching on the dance floor, he was in high spirits as the champagne and vodka cocktails flowed. Nevertheless, he maintained his discretion when asked about his new status as the Queen's favourite entertainer. It was recently reported that the monarch, a fan of Spall's series on travelling by barge, asked for the DVDs. "I would be greatly honoured if the Queen is watching," says Spall. "I couldn't hope for a higher endorsement. But who knows if it's true?" No BBC producer, surely, would invent this claim?

At last, some good news from Fleet Street. Claire Newell, a leading journalist on the Sunday Times's Insight team, has been poached by The Daily Telegraph to head up a new investigations unit. Good to hear it is investing in journalism. Or does it want the inside story from Wapping?

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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