Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (24/04/11)

A thoroughly good egg

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Where do you put 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds once you've finished with them?

That's the question facing Chris Dercon, the new director of Tate Modern, who began his job only this month. The exhibition of Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds in the turbine hall comes to an end next weekend, and the seeds are due to be returned to the artist, to whom they still belong. However, 21 days ago, he was arrested in Beijing, and his whereabouts are still unknown. The Tate has already applied pressure on the Chinese authorities by projecting the words "Release Ai Weiwei" on the building; now it could apply even more pressure with the help of the seeds.

Perhaps they could post them to Ai Weiwei, courtesy of President Hu Jintao, one by one, rather like a Chinese water torture. A Tate spokesman says they have yet to decide what to do with them.

The only boost to morale at the News of the World recently has been winning Scoop of the Year for its exposé of the Pakistani cricket fixing scandal. But even that has now been brought into question by Peter Burden, author of a book about dodgy practices at the paper.

He makes the astonishing allegation that the footage which showed cricketers accepting bribes was not quite what it seemed, and points out that it has been quietly taken off the website. A source at the Screws dismisses suggestions the footage was faked, but confirms it is not currently available due to "a technical issue".

"We have been changing our video player provider in recent weeks, and our videos are going through a migratory process as they are transferred from one server to another," she says.

Meanwhile, officials have yet to reach a conclusion on the Screws allegations, five months on. Happily, we are reassured the footage will definitely be put back up once this technical change is made.

Who else but Conrad Black, the Winnebago of letters, could revive the arcane term "morganatic" in respect of the royal wedding?

The jailbird ex-Telegraph proprietor uses it in his latest column for Canadian newspaper, The National Post. For those of you without an OED to hand, a morganatic wedding is one between people of unequal rank, which prevents the wife and children from sharing the male's title or inheriting his privileges. The term still sends a shiver down the national spine, since it was rejected as an option for Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. But all four of the Queen's children have married beneath their rank, without impediment.

Conrad's wife Barbara Amiel turned 70 last year, and, contrary to bitchy speculation, stuck with him through his darkest days. Now there's certainly nothing morganatic about that union.

David Cameron was in Darlington on Wednesday to rally the troops for next month's elections, but managed to leave town less popular than before by snubbing the local press. Northern Echo snapper Sarah Caldecott pitched up at St Aidan's Academy, where the PM was addressing an invited audience, only to be told she wasn't welcome.

Despite being the town's only photographer, Caldecott was refused a pass and told media had been pooled for the event, which was being covered by PA only.

"It was rather heavy-handed," she tells me. "I've worked on the paper for 10 years and have photographed hundreds of events and politicians, including Tony Blair. He was always happy to have his picture taken. It wasn't as if they were short of space. Why would it be such a problem?"

The Northern Echo got its revenge, running a cartoon strip based on the three little pigs, featuring Cameron as the big bad wolf.

Bring back Andy Coulson, all is forgiven. The PM's campaign to present himself as a man of the people has been veering dangerously off course since his head of spin quit to be replaced by Craig Oliver.

First came the Ryanair mini-break to Malaga, which some felt was a little ham-fisted, and was undermined by snaps of the Camerons looking glum at Stansted surrounded by expensive luggage. Next came last week's embarrassing U-turn over wearing tails to the royal wedding.

Now, Dave and Sam are to spend Easter in Polzeath, Cornwall's Sloaniest resort, where William and Harry once cavorted, and thousands of hoorays migrate every summer. What is Craig doing behind those snazzy headphones all day?

Beryl Bainbridge never won the Booker prize, but was awarded one posthumously last week. Talk about adding insult to injury – you shortlist and disappoint her five times, then once she's gone, you create a song and dance and generate more publicity for – the Booker prize.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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