Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

A beacon of clarity amid the uncertainty


Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow is celebrating after taking part in a campaign to save a local pub, the Torriano, in his North London neighbourhood. "It's a great day for democracy," he proclaimed on Friday. But, according to some, the pub was never in danger – the proprietors merely wanted to convert the upper floors into flats. It's not the first time that Snow, who was protesting enthusiastically outside Camden Town Hall on Thursday, has excited himself over the Torriano. In 2005 he was on the warpath over a proposed extension to the pub's licence, firing off letters to the council asking them to block it, which they duly did. So many battles, so little time.

Whispers in the Commons reach me that minister James Purnell might have resigned had he been a casualty of the recent reshuffle. Still, a P45 would not have caused Purnell too many sleepless nights. In the early 1990s he found himself unemployed and did what any self-respecting young man does – sign up for the dole. "I remember queuing for a good hour, outside the kind of building that gave East German architecture a bad name," he writes in a local paper. Now he is Work and Pensions Secretary, and boasts: "My department employs over 100,000 people and spends more money each year than the entire GDP of Denmark." Perhaps now's not the best time to mention such extravagance.

Nick Robinson, the BBC's outstanding political editor, remarked on the 'Today' programme how much happier Gordon Brown seems now that the economic gloom has become really Stygian. Brown, said Robinson, had come "within weeks" of an attempt to unseat him. But hang on, that's what everyone else was saying. Robinson, famously, stuck his neck out in predicting there would be no challenge to Brown's leadership. Don't sell yourself short, Nick.

On yer bike. Sacked Foreign Office minister Kim Howells – who lost his job in the reshuffle – was spotted forlornly pumping up his bicycle tyre at the House of Commons bike rack last week. "The first time in 11 years," he muttered – that he's been without a ministerial car, that is. One of Howells' most impressive achievements since 1997 has been not to get sacked, despite a habit of speaking his mind. There was the time he described Turner Prize entries as "cold, mechanical, conceptual bullshit", and on another occasion blasted black rappers as idiots. His bike looked as if it hasn't seen much use, but Howells says he's "cheerful in adversity". That's the spirit.

A picture of Gordon Brown made out of a collage of gay pornographic images has barely raised an eyebrow since going on show in New York. Created by English portraitist Jonathan Yeo, son of former Tory minister Tim, the picture was going to be pulled after Yeo had a sudden pang of anxiety, given Brown's poor poll ratings. But he needn't have worried: "Everyone's much more interested in the one of Paris Hilton," Yeo tells me. "People haven't really recognised Gordon Brown." It's hard to know which part of all that is more insulting.

After years of under-funding, 'Tribune' magazine will close by the end of the month unless a buyer is found. But, apart from a chronic lack of funding, the Socialist rag has also been riven by a stand-off between two writers over plagiarism. Now, lawyers have been drafted in and a mediator brought from the National Union of Journalists. "It's the last thing they need," says one close to the magazine, "Someone needs to bang their heads together."

There might only ever have been one series of 'Blackadder' had Michael Grade had his way. Speaking at the Cheltenham festival, Richard Curtis recalled how the-then BBC One controller had rejected a second series on the grounds of cost. So Curtis went back to see where cuts could be made: "One of Rowan Atkinson's hats had cost more than I had been paid for the whole series." Also at the festival was Tony Robinson, who made his name as Baldrick. "I was only offered it because they'd tried every other short, ugly man in Equity," he said. "Frankly, it was such a crap part that everyone else turned it down."

React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions