Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (11/03/12)

Beware the ides of March (ie, Thursday)
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The Independent Online

Watch out! Darren Hughes is coming to town. I can disclose that the rising star of New Zealand's Labour Party, who resigned over a scandal involving a naked 18-year-old male student, has been given a senior position at the Electoral Reform Society. He begins later this month as director of campaigns. Mr Hughes was once tipped as a future prime minister of New Zealand, but that particular career path came to an end last year when a student lodged a complaint against him over a bizarre incident in the small hours. Mr Hughes and the unnamed 18-year-old had been drinking in central Wellington before they went back to the MP's lodgings. What happened next is unclear, though the student ended up running down the street with no clothes on. "He was completely naked and was covering his penis with his hand," noted one witness. Mr Hughes has always denied any impropriety, and police dropped the case citing lack of evidence. "He is quite clear that the issue is in fine fettle," says an ERS spokesman, leaving us none the wiser. Just the man we need to inject some ooh-la-la into the next election.

A major exhibition of Rolf Harris's paintings, opening at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool in May, was announced on Wednesday. But when I ran into the old sport that evening, at a private view of promising young artists at London's Sladmore Gallery, he admitted that many of his works don't even exist yet. "I'm in my studio every day at the moment, painting for the show," he says. "I've got a lot of work to do." The exhibition will be a retrospective of the didgeridoo-playing artist's life, and will include drawings and sculptures from his early days as an art student in London, including the trademark "Rolfaroo" cartoon. However, there will be no iPad art, even though Harris is a big Hockney fan. "I love David's new show," he tells me, "but I don't know how he can paint using the iPad. I don't think I could."

The curse of Rebekah Brooks has spread to the London College of Communications: controversial head Sandra Kemp has quit. There were red faces last year when it emerged that the LCC had bestowed an honorary degree on Brooks for "her considerable contribution" to journalism. Now, after a week of tense negotiations and talk of her job becoming "untenable", Kemp has resigned. This follows the departure in November of head of communications Gillian Radcliffe, who said she was escorted off the premises after submitting a resignation letter which criticised Kemp, claiming attempts had been made to "marginalise" her. The college's finance manager, Steve Chaplin, had left a few weeks before, having also reportedly been escorted from the premises. Then in December, eyebrows were raised when Professor Kemp responded to criticism by consulting mega-expensive publicist Max Clifford. Sounds like a PR-headache even Max couldn't fix.

Remember Janice Dickinson? No, nor do her friends. The self-proclaimed "world's first supermodel", is upset that Dame Vivienne Westwood had no idea who she was when they met at London Fashion Week. "I went backstage with my close friend Jo Wood to congratulate her," Janice tells the diary. "She had to ask Jo: 'Who is this?' 'It's Janice, Vivienne,' said Jo. 'You know, whom you've known since she would come and hang out with you and Malcolm in Sex [the shop] on the King's Road in the 1970s.' Nothing registered on her face." As if this weren't bad enough, Janice says Elton John also omitted to invite her to his Oscars party. "He managed to find room for lots of minor celebrities and even his little boy Zachary," she sniffs, "but not Janice, who raised half a million for his Aids charity." Happily, Axl Rose, of Guns N' Roses, invited her to a recent gig. "Who would have thought that Axl remembered old Janice before two British legends," she huffs. "As an honorary Anglophile with a 24-year-old British-passport-carrying son, frankly, I'm appalled."

Sandra Howard is publishing her fourth novel. The ex-model-turned-political-spouse is following on from the success of her 2010 effort, A Matter of Loyalty, with Ex-Wives. The blurb suggests it may not be rich on laughs: there's a plane crash, a divorce, a bipolar ex-wife, terminal cancer and some dodgy business activities. Still, the title suggests she knows of what she writes: Sandra is the ex-wife of three men. She was still married to husband number three when she met Michael Howard, her present husband, who was named as co-respondent in her divorce. Apparently he wooed Sandra by sending her a copy of Tender Is the Night. Surely the new novel was asking to be called Something of the Night?

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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