Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (29/08/10)

One-man show on the fringe

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Even the cosiest alliances don't last for ever, so BP has bid adieu to Sir Jeremy Greenstock as a special adviser. The former ambassador to the UN, and Tony Blair's eyes on the ground in Iraq, was awarded the handsomely paid post in 2004 by Lord Browne, when he was still chairman. He thought Jezza's top contacts and knowledge of the Middle East would suit the oil giant rather well. Now that BP finds itself tightening its belt, after losing £11bn in the last quarter, every penny counts. A spokesman confirms his departure, saying his contract had come to its natural end in April: "There is nothing unusual about this. His contract would have been on a one-year rolling basis." Intriguingly, BP is keeping the services of senior ex-MI6 man Sir Mark Allen, who also joined BP in 2004. Why so? "Jeremy only came in one day a week, whereas Mark's work is more extensive. Jeremy was brought in by somebody who has now left the company." Nothing to do with Allen's experience oiling wheels in Libya post-Lockerbie, then.

So farewell to Lord Glenconner, the 83-year-old friend of Princess Margaret and owner of Mustique – who bought the island as a swamp in 1958 and turned it into a millionaire's playground. The death on Friday of the peer formerly known as Colin Tennant comes only eight months after a shock discover: he had a 54-year-old lovechild, London psychotherapist Joshua Bowler. Already the father of five children, Lord Glenconner was apparently delighted by the revelation in January, after Bowler requested a paternity test, which came back positive. Poignantly, the new-found son had idolised Glenconner, working for him on Mustique as a sports coach for 18 months after leaving school, neither knowing each other's true identity. Like many large families in which one or two members die young, the Tennants are said to be "cursed", but there is nothing suspicious about the peer's death. The intrigue will lie in his will.

The ghost of disgraced former Brown aide Damian McBride continues to haunt civil servants at the Treasury. Since George Osborne's team moved in, one staff member has been puzzled to find colleagues answering his calls with a uniformly timid "Hee-elloo?" It turns out he has been given McBride's number, whose name still flashes up on the phone's display. So bad are the memories of the lobster-faced shouter that the more nervous in the press office are still ignoring calls from that number, letting them go straight through to voicemail.

Why wouldn't £413,000 p.a. BBC exec Caroline Thomson accept that it was a mistake to double the director-general's salary – from £400,000 in Greg Dyke's day to the whopping £834,000 Mark Thompson is on now? In her best management-speak, Thomson dodged around Justin Webb's perfectly polite questions on the Today programme yesterday, trotting out the usual line about the BBC needing to attract talent from the commercial sector. "So the BBC is better run since these huge salaries started to be paid?" probed Justin. "I think the BBC has benefited a lot," Thomson countered. She makes James Murdoch sound reasonable.

Happy news from the Edinburgh Literary Festival, where feuding authors Allan Massie and Philip Kerr have kissed and made up after a magnificent ding-dong earlier this summer. Kerr had used the comments section of Amazon to write an 813-word demolition of Massie's latest book, describing it as a "turkey". "When I pay 20 quid for a 'nuanced' history of the Stuarts, I don't expect to be served up a slab of cheesy prose from a crappy old novel," he wrote. But he admitted he had not been entirely dispassionate: Massie had written a less than positive review of one of Kerr's books, for the second time. Edinburgh-born Kerr was talking about his novel on Friday, when he revealed that he and Massie had patched things up. Aw.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is getting heavy with anyone who tries to use the Face-brand, by trying to trademark the word. This follows his attempts to claim the word "book", after he launched a legal action last week against Teachbook, a social networking site for teachers. He says it is "riding on the coat-tails of the fame and enormous goodwill of the Facebook trademark". Not to mention the threat to its £21bn estimated value.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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