Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (03/01/10)

To serve is honour enough
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The Independent Online

Is Paddy Ashdown set to become a goat? The former Lib Dem leader has been getting cosier with the Tories of late and I'm told he could be invited by Cameron to join a Brown-style "government of all the talents" should the Conservatives win the election. Only last week he jointly penned a piece in the FT with Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague. Now there is talk of some sort of advisory appointment – maybe a spokesman on Afghanistan? But let's not get too excited – whatever the truth, the Tories are clearly happy for the rumour to spread, if it helps soften increasing hostility from the Lib Dems.

From the Mahler-loving Trish in Educating Rita to a recent cameo in Skins, actress Maureen Lipman is nothing if not versatile. But her latest role is undoubtedly her weirdest. She is to star in a new film adaptation of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, playing the mother of a man who wakes as an insect. Lipman will star with Robert Pugh on the top secret project begins tomorrow in Buckinghamshire. The film is being directed by BAFTA-winning director Chris Swanton, although a distributor has yet to be found.

Legendary rocker Rick Wakeman was, strangely, overlooked in the New Year's honours list, but he's got other things on his mind. The former Yes keyboardist is devastated to have had two cameras stolen from backstage as he played a gig at Marlborough College, the fashionable Wiltshire boarding school. As term had already finished there is no suggestion the crime was committed by a pupil, but concert organiser Paul Chandler is now appealing for whoever took the cameras to return the memory cards, as they have pictures of sentimental importance to Wakeman. "Rick is gutted because he likes coming to Marlborough," says Chandler, "and then this sort of thing happens."



Former Telegraph editor Charles Moore has been nicknamed Lord Snooty but as followers of his Spectator columns will know, he is no slave to the establishment, leading a fearless campaign against bullying TV licence-fee collectors by refusing to pay until the BBC sacks Jonathan Ross. Now further evidence of Chazza the rebel has come to light in an article by his sister, Charlotte. Recalling the Moore family's faithful servant Rose White, who, we are told, was "equipped with a duster given to her by my late grandmother, which she greatly prized," – bless! – Charlotte reveals her brother's youthful indiscretions. "My older brother Charles got into trouble for putting Rose's hat on his own head and dancing about in it. This was not a hat to be treated with levity." Goodness knows what other untold naughtiness he has been up to since!

China's execution of Akmal Shaikh, who was reported to have been mentally ill and tricked into carrying 4kg of heroin, drew plenty of condemnation from, among others, Gordon Brown, David Miliband and UN and EU representatives. But haven't we been here before, with the case of Ricky Ray Rector? The Arkansas murderer was deemed mentally incapable yet became a political pawn during the 1992 US election, when Bill Clinton flew home personally to give his execution the go-ahead. Many, including the polemicist Christopher Hitchens, saw this as a cynical move by Clinton to deflect criticism that he was too soft. As I recall there wasn't quite the same outrage from Westminster.

Tighter security at the Vatican after the Pope's recent tussle is long overdue, says journalist Dominic Midgley, who tells me he once gained access with no formal ID. "I was offered an interview with a senior cleric at half an hour's notice," he says. "In the rush to make it I forgot my passport. It was a very hot day, I couldn't get a taxi and by the time I arrived at the checkpoint I was covered in sweat." Despite presumably looking like a swivel-eyed loon, Midgley says he was waved in on production of a Cannons gym card. Lord help us.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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