Matthew Bell: The IoS diary


If he can survive until then, Gordon Brown will be praying for a miracle at the Labour Party conference, starting this Saturday. But he's not taking any chances. First things first – keep the awkward squad at bay. Climate campaigners Joss Garman and Anita Goldsmith were astonished to receive letters last week saying they are banned from attending. The Greenpeace activists have been told their applications for accreditation have been refused on security grounds. "They've rejected it because I've got a criminal record," says Garman, who was once arrested for breaking into an airbase in a protest over Iraq. "Who else will be banned? Are they letting Peter Hain in? He's got a criminal record."

With all those early starts and an eight-year-old son to raise, it's a marvel 'Today' presenter John Humphrys has any energy for a social life. How encouraging then to hear he is no less active than the next 65-year-old journalist. Although rarely seen out in public, reports reach me of a revival in his friendship with 'Observer' columnist Catherine Bennett. The two were spotted out dining à deux last year, although sightings had dropped off until recently. Bennett, once married to Lord Sackville, has not always been a fan of Humph's. In a 'Guardian' piece about the inadequacies of the 'Today' presenters in 1996, she singled Humphrys out as "disgraceful". But that was then, this is now.

It's a victory for Noel Gallagher. After the disastrous choice of hip-hopper Jay-Z to headline Glastonbury this summer, which the Oasis singer described as "wrong", Michael Eavis is taking Glasto back to its indie roots for 2009. A West Country mole tells me the Foo Fighters were spotted emerging from Eavis's Zummerzet farmhouse recently, and I gather they have been signed to headline the Friday night. The American band, a spin-off of Nirvana following Kurt Cobain's death, should help prevent a repeat of the nation's collective shrug when tickets went on sale this year.

Marmite minister Hazel Blears – loved and loathed in equal measure – may rue not winning the Labour deputy leadership, but she is proud of the power she does have. Speaking at a Local Government Association conference on Wednesday, Blears boasted that it was thanks to her that the Cabinet met in Birmingham on Monday. The unusual step – a Cabinet hasn't met outside London since 1921 – drew whingeing from some ministerial colleagues, who thought it a gimmick. But Blears is unabashed. "It was all my fault," she beamed. Words seldom heard in Westminster.

News that Rav Singh, chief gossip columnist of the 'News of the World', is stepping down will have corks popping among hounded celebs worldwide. But perhaps they shouldn't celebrate too soon. Singh may be about to join their ranks as potential fodder for his old column. I'm told he has been in talks with Simon Cowell, he of the high trousers, about the possibility of becoming a judge on the next series of 'Britain's Got Talent'. Watch this space.

Who needs Robert De Niro anyway? After the Hollywood tough guy flounced off the set of Mel Gibson's film 'Edge of Darkness' last week, Gibson wasted little time in finding a replacement, and is reported to have lined up Hackney-born actor Ray Winstone. De Niro abandoned Gibson's project, a cinematic version of the 1980s BBC drama, after only two days on set due to "creative differences". Now Winstone, a one-time amateur boxer, is slipping straight into De Niro's character. A former colleague of Winstone tells me he is unlikely to succumb to any queeny strops.

Recalling the events of 9/11 seven years ago, music critic Caitlin Moran has one previously undocumented memory. "I seem to remember the only journalist the 'Guardian' had in New York at the time was Charlie Porter, their fashion correspondent and a very dear friend of mine, who suddenly had to file a news piece. Because it was Fashion Week, and it was all he had taken, he had to write his piece wearing a pale pink silk jumpsuit, spats and a multi-coloured, knitted Roman centurion's helmet."

Three weeks ago I revealed how the trustees of Charleston, the former Sussex retreat of the Bloomsbury set, had infuriated neighbours by hosting a spate of raucous weddings in the grounds. Now the trustees have reversed their decision and are ceasing to hire it out, despite having provisional bookings for next summer. "It's such a relief," sighs a neighbour. "We hadn't had so much noise on the Downs since the Battle of Britain."

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