Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

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The Independent Online

Some comfort for users of the Downing Street email system, after missives sent by Gordon Brown's now departed chief communications officer, Damian McBride, leaked out to blogger Guido Fawkes. Whoever has been rifling through emails is much more likely to have accessed them not from McBride's account but from those of Derek Draper, the former Labour spin-doctor, to whom they had been sent. For only last week a story about Draper made its way into Private Eye, which, according to Draper, bore an uncanny resemblance to an email he had sent to a friend. Hacking into emails can be as simple as guessing a password. What might Draper's be? Dolly? Mutley?



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Here's an Easter surprise. As the nation tucks into £250m worth of chocolate this weekend, one person who won't be joining in is Joanne Harris, below, author of Chocolat, the book that made her name, and discussed by Joan Smith on these pages. In an extraordinary revelation, a friend of the author has disclosed that despite writing so effusively about the stuff, she doesn't in fact like it. Paul Blezard, literary editor at The Lady, was amazed to make his discovery after spending a weekend with Harris in Yorkshire. "I hope that she won't mind if I tell you a little known fact about her," he writes on his books blog, LibraDoodle. "She doesn't like chocolate. Who'd have thought?" Who indeed. Pass the creme eggs.



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Even Philip Pullman has lost his job. As the best-selling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy he will probably get by, but it will nevertheless have come as a blow to be told his services are no longer required by DFC, the comic for which he wrote. For after launching with much fanfare only a year ago, DFC – the first new Beano-style comic in 25 years – has folded. Dreamed up by Pullman's friend, the Oxford-based publisher David Fickling, DFC was axed by Random House after if failed to draw its "target subscription level", although a spokesman declines to say what that was. "Sometimes the market can prove too hard," she says, "It needed time to grow but in a recession it couldn't be allowed the luxury of a slow-build."



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He once dabbled with politics and was in the top 20 most powerful Asians in Britain. But Avtar Lit may now find himself in a spot of bother. The multi-millionaire former owner and chairman of London's Sunrise Radio is being investigated by Ofcom over allegations that he sold the station saddled with a £2.2m debt. It is alleged the debt had been attached to the station's broadcasting licence, which is still said to bear his name. It is not the first time Lit has been caught up in controversy over a licence. In 2001, when he stood as a Tory candidate in Ealing Southall, Sunrise Radio was fined £10,000 for giving a campaign interview on his own radio station, contravening broadcasting law. Lit's son Tony stood in the 2007 Ealing Southall by-election, but was also unsuccessful.



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A month after his controversial trip to Gaza, George Galloway is planning to do it all over again. The MP for Bethnal Green and Bow was accused of allowing the Viva Palestina aid convoy to become a propaganda exercise for the unpopular Egyptian government after attending official receptions despite previously calling for it to be toppled. Now in the US, where he is on a speaking tour, Galloway has met peace campaigner Ron Kovic and announced a second trip from the states. "There's a new atmosphere in the US over Palestine," he says, "the phenomenal response to this tour demonstrates that." But he is likely to draw further criticism for his association with Egypt, by announcing the aid mission of 500 vehicles will assemble in Egypt before heading into Gaza via the Rafah crossing on 4 July, Independence Day.



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Following alarming reports that the debts of the Glazer family, owners of Manchester United, have risen to £699m, more positive news emerges from an unlikely source – Cannes. The prestigious film festival is to feature Looking For Eric, a long-awaited film by Ken Loach starring former Man U striker Eric Cantona. The film, about a postman who gets spiritual guidance from Cantona, was shot in the city last summer. It features scenes at Old Trafford, as well as at FC United, the club set up by disgruntled fans in protest at the Glazers' ownership.



Matthew Bell

m.bell@ independent.co.uk

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