Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (17/04/11)

Pitching camp on The Mall
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The Independent Online

Andrew Neil has been snubbed by BBC bosses, who are dispensing with his services for the royal wedding. Instead, he will be appearing on rival broadcaster ITV.

The move comes days after Sir Michael Lyons, outgoing chairman of the BBC Trust, described Brillo's election night party as "the most uncomfortable" moment of his time in office.

Last year, Neil hosted a celebrity-filled party aboard the Silver Sturgeon cruiser in the Thames, at a reported cost of £30,000. On Radio 4's Media Show, Sir Michael called it "a misdesigned initiative".

The BBC decision not to avail themselves of their star interviewer's talents for the big day is intriguing. Although Neil may not be a fan of all that pomp and ceremony, he is one of the best presenters they've got.

But he's the not the only heavyweight to be snubbed – David Dimbleby is reportedly miffed not to be anchoring the wedding, which has been given to Huw Edwards.

Adam Boulton couldn't be happier with his role in Sky's royal wedding coverage, meanwhile. He tells me he will be collaring nobs and royals as they enter Westminster Abbey.

"It's been a while since I've done it, but I love doorstepping people," he told me at the opening of Scottish restaurant Boisdale in Canary Wharf.

Boulton feels an affinity with the Middletons, having been born and raised in Reading, the town of Kate's birth. He even went to the same prep school as Kate, St Andrew's Pangbourne. Might make a simpatico official biographer?

Where does Boris Johnson stand on AV? Judging by a recent column in The Daily Telegraph, in which he calls it a "gigantic fraud", the Mayor of London is with David Cameron in the No camp. But it wasn't ever thus.

When he was campaigning to become president of the Oxford Union, Boris based his speech on the need for electoral reform, attacking the evils of two-party politics.

"[First past the post] causes a crude polarity," he thundered, "a Manichean dichotomy and is dividing the nation".

According to Sonia Purnell, who is researching a biography of Boris called Just Boris, the speech met with hearty applause and helped win Boris the vote. Fast forward to today, and Boris is writing in the Telegraph: "First-past-the-post has served this country well, and served dozens of other countries well. We would be mad to go to a great deal of trouble and expense to adopt a system that is less fair than the one we have."

Over to Purnell: "It just shows how brilliant Boris has been since his Oxford days at saying what his audience wants to hear."

When political lobbyist Ian Greer fled these shores for South Africa, after getting mixed up in the cash-for-questions scandal that ended Neil Hamilton's political career, it brought an end to the two men's friendship. Now, news reaches me of a rapprochement, after the Hamiltons were invited to lunch at the 77-year-old Greer's Stellenbosch home.

My man in the vineyards tells me Neil and Christine are in South Africa to research a travel piece for a newspaper, and were invited to lunch by the ex-Westminster fixer.

Greer, renowned for his lavish lifestyle in the 1980s and 1990s, was accused of getting Hamilton to ask questions in the Commons for Mohamed al-Fayed, but was eventually cleared. Five years ago, he returned to Britain for a month of partying to celebrate tying the knot with his long-term partner, Clive Ferreira. Back then, the Hamiltons were not invited, but it seems they've now put the past behind them.

Intriguing to hear that the 16 lambs found crammed into two cars on the M5 last week were stolen from a farm in Toddington, Gloucestershire. Police say they are recovering well. But do they really want to go home?

Toddington is home to animal-embalming artist Damien Hirst, who bought Pugin-designed Toddington Manor to turn into a museum for his pickled creations. A spokesman for Gloucestershire police refuses to identify the lambs' owner when I call.

Gad-about conductor Valery Gergiev was beamed in by video link to last week's BBC Music Magazine Awards, having won disc of the year for a recording of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

In person to receive the gong was his deputy Lennox Mackenzie, who joked about Gergiev's reputation for cutting things fine. He recalled a time in Vilnius when, with five minutes to go, there was still no sign of the maestro.

He called Gergiev: "Where are you?" "I'm here." Mackenzie peered round the hall. "Where? I can't see you." Gergiev told Mackenzie to step outside. "I still can't see you." "Look up." Above in the clear blue sky he saw the tiny speck of an aircraft coming into land.

"The maestro has an elastic idea of where 'here' is," said Mackenzie.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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