Matthew Bell: The IoS diary


As Londoners face a choice between Bertie Wooster and Gussie Fink-Nottle, many are turning to the only mayoral candidate not to have come out of Wodehouse, Brian Paddick. But the Lib Dem has a claim to comic genius that far outweighs his two rivals. For he is the cousin of 1960s doyen of camp humour Hugh Paddick, who, with Kenneth Williams earned a cult following as Julian and Sandy in the BBC's 'Round the Horne'. The sketch was notorious for its gay double entendres, of the "He asked for an innuendo so I gave him one" variety, at a time when homosexuality was illegal. As my pictures show, Brian and Hugh Paddick, both gay, are not dissimilar. But Brian expresses little interest in his famous relative. "I am told that he was a second cousin once removed, or something, but certainly I never met him," he says, "I did listen to 'Round the Horne', but I never really understood what was going on. I was too young to get the innuendo." How disappointing.

Could Terry Wogan be leaving the BBC? Only two weeks ago the Beeb announced Jeremy Vine would be replacing him on 'Points of View'. Now rumour is mounting that he is in talks with ITV over a lucrative contract to jump ship. This would mean giving up his Radio 2 show, and the Eurovision Song Contest. Wogan would also have to give up Children in Need, although he is unlikely to mind since he was revealed to be the only employee to demand a fee for it, following which he no longer receives one. ITV denies that anything has been formalised.

Following the remark by Lord Desai, the former economic adviser to the Government to the effect that the PM is not a patch on his predecessor, one Labour MP is blaming the party's woes on Neal Lawson of the Compass group. Backbencher John McDonnell believes he would now be Prime Minister and all would be well, had Lawson not stopped him getting enough nominations to contest Brown for the leadership. Compass's backing of Brown scuppered McDonnell's chances of becoming PM, he claims on GMTV today.

Turmoil among Labour cheerleaders isn't restricted to the party. 'The Guardian' last week ran a string of diverse pieces on the state of Gordon Brown's premiership. Arch-Blairite Martin Kettle claimed the best way for Labour to recover is for Brown to go, while a leader on the same day said "the thought of replacing Mr Brown is ludicrous". Jackie Ashley surmised that Labour will probably lose the next election, but that it wasn't Brown's fault, while Polly Toynbee wrote a why-oh-why lament about how Brown's weathervane politics are the problem. Who are we to believe?

Not usually noted for stirring up trouble, 'Prospect' magazine has taken a poker to a hornets' nest by compiling a chart of the world's top 100 thinkers. The list in next month's issue leaves off a third of the intellectuals ranked in 2005, including Germaine Greer, Timothy Garton Ash and cosmologist Martin Rees, a contributor to the magazine. "We decided to clear out some dead wood," says Tom Nuttall of 'Prospect'. "These people are unlikely to do anything interesting again. It's hard to imagine that Germaine Greer will write a book that will change the way we think in the next 10 years." Greer responds: "I doubt they have read anything I have written since 1969. For someone who has no chance of changing thinking I seem to find myself in the thick of rather too much controversy, none of it I think represented in the pages of 'Prospect'."

Elfin novelist Beryl Bainbridge claims to have had her heart broken by a failed marriage as a young woman. But she is ecstatic that her 27-year-old grandson Charlie Russell is ready to tie the knot. "He took his girlfriend to the top of the Empire State building on Thursday and got down on one knee!" she beams at the launch of Ferdinand Mount's memoirs, 'Cold Cream'. Although 75, Bainbridge has no plans to commission a biography of herself, as "it's all in my books". But her preferred choice would be A N Wilson. Doubtless he would leap at the chance.

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