Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (27/06/10)

Just like Glastonbury, only bigger

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Christopher Hitchens was in his early 20s when he shot to infamy at the
New Statesman; now his son Alexander is following the dynastic tradition. The 26-year-old researcher and former
Standpoint blogger is at the centre of a bizarre tussle over a profile of him that appeared on the anti-PR website Spinprofiles. In a highly unusual move the entire website was shut down by the internet firm with whom the URL is registered, after Spinprofiles refused to remove the offending article. Lawyers for 1&1 Internet gave no explanation, except to say the piece "included personal information"that Spinprofiles had no permission to use, though they did not elaborate. Having seen the piece, we're mystified as to what they mean. It's unclear who is behind this salvo on free speech, but we hope it's not Hitchens junior.

It's a victory for the IoS. A few weeks ago we wrote that Andrew Neil would be the nation's finest heavyweight political interviewer, if only he would drop the nauseating love-ins with Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott on This Week, his Thursday politics show. Now he has heeded our advice, causing a blogosphere sensation after turning his guns on fellow couchee Diane Abbott last week. In a jaw-dropping five minutes, Neil grilled her on her taxi receipts, her hypocrisy over her son's private schooling, and her apparent racism. Admittedly he plans to do the same to all six candidates for the Labour leadership, but the special relationship will surely never be the same with Abbott, who seemed shocked to be at the sharp end of his tongue. Well worth a watch.

Producers at Big Brother have gone all post-modern by recognising the show is a freak show and dressing the latest series up as such. But in their creative funk they have overlooked some elementary housekeeping. Having sensationally revealed that they are going to re-introduce former contestants into the house at the end of August, they are now, um, finding said contestants are not exactly queuing up to return. "What's in it for us?" asks one former contest-ant. "The pros don't exactly outweigh the cons." Let's hope they've got deep pockets.

Revelations of an affair between Chris Huhne and Carina Trimingham put the tally of coalition scandals at Lib Dems 2, Tories 0. Last weekend's story died away with extraordinary speed, compared to when Robin Cook was forced to make the same choice between wife and mistress early in the Blair administration. No doubt this can be explained by the expert handling of the press by David Cameron's chief spin doctor, the handsomely remunerated Andy Coulson. It is a testament to his professionalism that the damage to Huhne was so effectively limited – only a few months ago Huhne was making Coulson's life very difficult by asking questions over his role in the News of the World phone hacking scandal. How times change!

Prince Charles is being called an interfering booby yet again, and now similar murmurings reach me about Camilla. Ahead of a visit to the Royal Show in Cornwall, she made it known that other ladies needn't bother to wear a hat. I'm told this caused a great deal of upset among some who had gone to the trouble of buying one. "A lot of ladies spend a lot of money on their hats and are very disappointed when they don't have a chance to wear them," huffs one Hyacinth Bucket. Surely they could have worn them anyway – after all, Prince Charles wore a suit and tie to Glastonbury last week, which some might consider overdressing.

At the risk of appearing to be obsessed with Charles Moore, the former Daily Telegraph editor, this column is fascinated to learn yet another vignette about Lord Snooty's youth, from his sister, Charlotte. A few months ago she revealed young Chazza used to like nothing better than to steal their maidservant's hat and dance around in it. Now, writing in The Guardian, she says that as a teenager he would peel the labels off the wine drunk at Sunday lunch and paste them on his bedroom door. She has got a book to plug, but really, are none of his embarrassing secrets safe?

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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