Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (01/01/2012)

First footling


Nicknamed Tarzan, Michael Heseltine is usually caricatured beating his breast in the jungle. But the bouffant-haired Tory was on a beach in Mauritius when the plot was hatched to send him to Liverpool in 1981, causing much anxiety back home. Documents released by the National Archives show how Heseltine did not want his mission to the north to be announced while he was sunning himself in luxury. "He does not want the statement to go out while he is lying on a beach in Mauritius," wrote one mandarin in a memo. "He thinks the reaction would be unfavourable." The announcement was duly made when he was back, although the civil servant, Tim Lankester, had concerns about that too. "People will assume that we have delayed it because of Mr Heseltine's absence, and they will then focus on the fact that he has been holidaying in Mauritius," he said.

Four Weddings and a Funeral star Simon Callow claims the press "wouldn't let him" come out in the 1980s, even though he kept telling them he was gay. Every time he told an interviewer about it, they refused to print it, he tells Pink News. He finally went public about it in his book, Being an Actor, in 1984, wanting to tell the world rather than be "outed" in scandal, like many before. But before the book was published, the media didn't want to know, he says. "When they did interviews with me they'd ask, 'Do you have a girlfriend?' and I would say, 'No, I'm gay,' but they would never write it down. One woman from The Mail on Sunday, after a lot of meandering, said: 'Now, I gather you're bisexual?' I told her: 'That's an absolute calumny. I'm not bisexual, I'm entirely homosexual,' but it never appeared in the interview."

Bra queen Michelle Mone, the owner of Britain's biggest lingerie supplier and creator of the Ultimo bra, has split from her husband of nearly 20 years, because he was appalled that she posed in her undies for a campaign. But she can hardly be surprised. In an interview with this newspaper 15 months ago, she told us that he'd already warned her he disliked the idea, but went ahead all the same. "I know it's a huge gamble. It could even destroy the company, I suppose, and maybe I'm just being selfish," she said at the time. Of rumours she was linked to rugby player Gavin Henson, she said: "That was just awful... Michael was devastated and I'm sorry I put him through that." But most puzzling was her declaration that "I have never wanted to be a celebrity... I have never courted the attention." According to her website, she has given an interview to the press at least once a month for the past two years, and even invited Hello! magazine for a shoot. Er, hello!

As one of the organists who played at Prince William's wedding, James McVinnie is used to entertaining large crowds. Now, he is entering the world of rock. For I hear the 28-year-old assistant organist is leaving Westminster Abbey, and is preparing to play in gigs with members of hit US group The National. "It is rather off the beaten track," he tells me. The move is quite a departure from his career so far, having played at St Paul's and St Albans cathedrals, though he will continue to teach organ at Tonbridge School in Kent and Cambridge University. He is the second organist to leave the abbey since the royal wedding: in September, Edward Tambling was dismissed for making disparaging comments about the music of John Rutter, a favourite of the royals, who was commissioned to compose a piece for the wedding.

An eccentric bachelor author, who wrote a biography of Dusty Springfield and bombarded Downing Street with Freedom of Information requests demanding to know if Cherie Blair murdered a cat, is at the centre of a row between his MP, Stephen Pound, and his own sister. Edward Leeson died penniless of a heart attack in PC World in Northolt, and no relatives were thought to exist. So Pound, who had become a friend, issued an impassioned plea in the local paper for relatives to come forward. But when a Leeson sister emerged from East Anglia, she proved to be furious at Pound's interference. She arranged a private funeral which was kept secret, due to be attended only by her and a friend. Pound ignored her wrath and, thanks to a tip-off, turned up all the same. "I was the only other person present to hear 'Going Back' played three times," he says. Leeson's books included a companion to Thomas Hardy, and anthologies of verse and prose. He was also a trustee of Shakespeare's Globe. Other friends are invited to get in touch.

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