Matthew Bell: The IoS diary


During a recent appearance on 'Desert Island Discs', Diane Abbott recalled a traumatic event which she said happened when she was a girl at Harrow County School. On returning their essays, a teacher read out a list of marks to the class: "She started at the top and went down to the bottom, and read out everyone's name and everyone's grade and not my name. Afterwards she picked up the essay and she literally looked down on me and said, 'Where did you copy this essay?' "I was mortified." Heart-rending stuff. But my attention is drawn to a similar tale told by psychologist Carl Gustav Jung about his own school days, first published in 1961. "I waited and waited in vain for my name. When all the essays had been read, the teacher paused. Then he said: 'Now I have one more composition – Jung's. It is by far the best – but unfortunately it is a fraud. Where did you copy it from?' I shot to my feet, as horrified as I was furious." A case of great minds...?

An economy of imagination must have led Nigel Lawson to call his daughter Nigella. Now it seems recycling names has become something of a family tradition. When Nigella's 15-year-old daughter Mimi christened her pet gerbil 'Mucca', there was speculation the rodent had been named after Sir Paul McCartney's ex-wife Heather Mills. But Nigella quashes such suggestions: "The gerbil wasn't named 'Mucca' after Heather Mills," she says. "It was actually named after a cat we used to own called Miuccia, after Miuccia Prada, but when Mimi named her gerbil she accidentally spelt it wrongly so it ended up as Mucca." A gerbil named after a cat named after a handbag designer – aargh!

Tony Blair, George Bush and now David Cameron – all have had their portraits painted by young British artist Jonathan Yeo. The question is, why not Gordon Brown? "Brown is such a charisma vacuum," Yeo tells me. "I'd definitely be interested in doing him though – less attractive people are easier to paint, you can have fun with it and really slap the paint around. I'd happily do it if No 10 called me, but it's not likely."

In a lapse from his customarily courtly standards, Sir Alan Sugar – yes, him again – has shown an undue level of impertinence towards my colleague Janet Street-Porter. In yesterday's 'Telegraph', S'r Alan said he resents the idea that he doesn't welcome strong women doing well on 'The Apprentice', but cuts himself short, saying that last time he commented on this, "they hauled out all these feminists like that nasal hag Janet Street-Porter...". Janet, as you would expect, remains above the fray. "Life's too effing short to watch 'The Apprentice'," she explains.

Commentating on the 24-hour motor race at Le Mans this weekend was one François Fillon, better known for his day job as Prime Minister of France. His somewhat surprising involvement in the race follows his recent admission that he covets Max Mosley's job as head of the FIA. Fillon's motor sport credentials are respectable, having competed in the gruelling 24-hour race and, as it happens, having been born in Le Mans. But now that Mosley's position is safe, Fillon will have to settle for a role as a latter-day Murray Walker for the time being.

Gissajob. Siân Berry, the Green Party candidate for Mayor of London, is looking for work. "I was working at Imperial College but gave it up to stand for Mayor, so I am now looking for a new job," she tells me. Ken Livingstone has declared his intention to stand again in 2012, but Berry is undecided: "It's a bit like having a baby. You start off thinking, 'I'm not doing that again.' But then often you do. Although I haven't had a baby."

Next week the 'IoS' publishes its ninth annual Pink List, a chart of the 100 most influential gay people in politics, the media and the arts. One person who won't be included is the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who is straight and married. However she topped a lesbian poll last week as the most desirable British female politician, scooping 34 per cent of the votes, ahead of Lib Dem Sarah Teather at 24 per cent and Ruth Kelly at 18 per cent.

In his resignation speech, David Davis cited the liberties protected by Magna Carta, the 13th-century manuscript whose anniversary is marked today. This brings to mind the musings of the late comedian Tony Hancock, who spluttered, "Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?"

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