Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (30/01/11)

Still a world service

Share
Related Topics

"No need to panic" screamed Channel 4 News on Friday, following the hospitalisation of Nelson Mandela. If only they had followed their own advice: when the news broke the day before, newsreader Jon Snow was despatched to catch the next flight to Johannesburg. It proved to be a futile exercise, but probably not as expensive as the BBC's: they sent 20 staff members, some travelling on business class. I'm told this went down like a cup of cold porridge with staff back home, given last week's announcement that 650 jobs are to go in the World Service to save money. "Working across BBC TV, radio and online, 20 staff are currently deployed in South Africa," a spokesman confirms. "A number of them travelled overnight business class, as they were expected to work as soon as they arrived in the country." Thing is, the hospital never suggested Mandela was close to dying, just that he was 92 and frail.

A new game has emerged of pointing out the prominent people who were left out of The King's Speech. The latest to speak up is Rosa Monckton, an old friend of Diana, Princess of Wales, who says she was surprised to find no mention made of her grandfather, Lord Monckton. As Edward VIII's lawyer, he played a vital part during the abdication crisis. This follows questions raised last week over why Sir Louis Greig wasn't portrayed in the film – he was the best friend and tennis partner of George VI, and is credited with having boosted Prince Albert's confidence before he became king. And then there is David Martin, the young BBC engineer who, as some pedants have wailed, edited out the stammers in the king's Second World War speeches, though he got no mention in the film. All good fun, but whatever happened to artistic licence?

As the superb film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go opens in British cinemas next month, the weird decision not to award it the Booker Prize in 2005 should surely be revisited. The prize went to John Banville's The Sea, which, like the rest of the shortlist, has not been made into a film, and has sold under 200,000 copies – roughly half Ishiguro's sales. David Sexton, literary editor of the Evening Standard, was one of two judges who argued in favour of Never Let Me Go. But Rick Gekoski, who made the case for Banville, stands by his choice, and tells me he has no intention of seeing Ishiguro's film, which stars Carey Mulligan as Cathy. "It's too creepy", he says, "It's affective but a film about organically reared children farmed for their organs? At my age? No." Chairman of the judges Professor John Sutherland voted last, thus winning it for Banville. Does he have any regrets? "My opinion was my opinion. That's the essence of the Booker. It's not a consensual thing." The good news is Ishiguro doesn't hold a grudge, says Sutherland: "I saw him afterwards and he simply said, 'the goalkeeper went the wrong way'."

Authors with HarperCollins in America are alarmed to notice a "morality" clause has appeared in their contracts. It says the publisher has the right to cancel if the author's conduct "evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals", and such behaviour "would materially damage the work's reputation or sales". Could the same be heading to these shores? A Harper's spokesman laughs the suggestion off when I call. Quite right – surely sales only go up if an author misbehaves here.

Much ooh-la-la-ing in Paris over immigration minister Eric Besson's new 24-year-old Tunisian wife, who, as I disclosed last week, has been advising Sarko on her homeland. But Sylvie Brunel, Beeson's ex-wife of 26 years, and a respected economist, gets in touch to point out that Berlusconi-style sleaze is rampant in France. "The moral of this story is that to succeed in politics, it's worth more to be a singer, a model or a gracious young woman and well disposed to the attentions of 50-year-olds, than to bother with Harvard or political sciences," she writes. We should be grateful "No-more-than-30" means something quite different in British politics.

Critics of the BBC's £150,000-a-year arts editor Will Gompertz will have to eat their words – he has broken a story. On Friday, he revealed that the Tate Modern's installation of 100 million porcelain "sunflower seeds" was a potential health risk, after lab tests showed they contained traces of lead. The story is particularly brave given that Gompertz's previous job was as head of PR for the Tate. Much as we hate to spoil a good story, er, didn't we already know Ai Weiwei's installation was a health risk, given that it closed very publicly within days of opening?

m.bell@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker / Telesales

£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Libby Lane, the first female bishop in the Church of England, smiles following her consecration service at York Minster in York  

Libby Lane's appointment as the first female bishop might have been understated, but its importance echoes around the world

Sally Hitchiner
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project