Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary

No place for a wee, tim'rous beastie
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The Independent Online

Bubbly property expert Kirstie Allsopp may be forced to walk naked through Westminster, thanks to a U-turn by the Conservatives. Just over a year ago, she teamed up with shadow Housing minister Grant Shapps amid much fanfare to launch a review into house-buying. The idea was to dream up ideas on how to make the process fairer and easier, and to scrap the Government's controversial Home Information Packs (HIPs). "If everyone says they like HIPs I will walk naked across College Green," declared Kirstie. Now HIPs have been grudgingly accepted, and I gather the review has been quietly dropped, which Shapps puts down to "the severe downturn in the market". Quite how that is relevant remains unclear. So come on, Kirstie – scrap the HIPs or do the decent thing.

Two weeks ago, I noted how John Redwood was being closely monitored by Conservative apparatchiks after posting a series of blog entries giving the impression he was less than 100 per cent backing Barack. Funny, then, how recent postings have become not just a lot more appreciative of the President but, indeed, would have us believe Redders was the first to spot Obama's talent. "I wish President Obama well," he writes. "His journey from Chicago to Washington is a great achievement which has generated him huge good will. I remember when I first praised his ability to shape a new language and style of politics and to build a coalition of support, eyebrows were raised by Conservatives. This was long before he became the front-runner for the Democratic nomination."

Critics lauded actor Jasper Britton as the star of Nicholas De Jongh's debut play 'Plague Over England', last year. So why is he not starring in the West End transfer opening next month? The official line is he's otherwise engaged performing in a new production of Noël Coward's 'Private Lives', but whispers reach me that he had a spectacular row with De Jongh. Neither are afraid to speak their minds – Britton has in the past described the Globe theatre as "ghastly", despite having success there, and he once left a show at the Royal Court saying, "I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't work with wankers any more. Because I've done too much of it and it makes me unwell. I've pissed off so many people." De Jongh's day job, meanwhile, is as waspish critic on the 'Evening Standard'. Let's hope they kiss and make up.

Tony Benn was leading protests outside Broadcasting House yesterday following the BBC's decision not to broadcast a Gaza relief appeal. But among the several thousand people gathered there was some confusion about what they were protesting about. One man was seen going through the crowd chanting, "Sack Jonathan Ross" to murmurs of approval.

Word has got round the blogosphere that David Miliband told a group of senior Jewish community figures that they should "tell your government" to stop bombing Gaza. Miliband's relations with the Jewish community have not been great, despite his being Jewish himself, and this would have marked a new low. But the Foreign Office has categorically denied the story, saying: "We do not recognise this account of the Foreign Secretary's remarks.... The Foreign Secretary has not questioned, and nor would he, the nationality or loyalties of either Britain's Jewish community or other communities in the UK. As he has said many times, Britain's diversity is its strength." As you were.

In its day it was the bohemian heart of London, a faded mansion in Eaton Square where Irish artists and writers exchanged stories late into the night. But since selling up five years ago when funds ran out, the Irish Club has been homeless. Now I'm pleased to report it has found new premises in Blackfriars and will re-open its doors next month. Seamus Heaney and Liam Neeson, both vice-presidents, will be among those raising a Guinness to its new lease of life. As well as the inevitable bar, there will be a restaurant serving the club's famous Irish stew, a recipe used by Nigella Lawson in her book 'How To Eat'.