Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (17/10/10)

Always the last man out
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The Independent Online

David Cameron paid tribute to the late agony aunt Claire Rayner in PMQs by saying he was brought up listening to her on Capital Radio. Good old Dave, capturing the public mood.

The trouble is Rayner's son Jay, a writer and food critic, thinks Cameron might have been muddling Rayner with Anna Raeburn, who also had a show on Capital, but in the evenings. "My mum was on in the mornings with Aspel, when Dave was at school," he observes. Don't worry, Dave: as we say on the diary, why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

Why is Kate Moss being so coy about getting married? Five weeks ago, the IoS got a call to say that she had got spliced to her bloke, Jamie Hince, in Sicily, in August. Her marital status had been the subject of speculation, but, as ever, the IoS was happy to clear up the confusion. So we put it to her "friends" (to use the customary media euphemism), who told us it wasn't true. Then, lo and behold, last week the Mirror splashed with the same story. Again, Kate's people insisted it's not true. How curious. So how do they explain the following? That when the Mirror called Storm, her agency, saying they had been offered pictures of the wedding, the paper was told: "That is really, really shocking .... There were so few people present", and saying later, "We've kept it out of the papers. It's so private." We won't breathe a word.

David Miliband is said to be toying with becoming a cheesemonger. Following his wafer-thin defeat to become Labour leader, the elder Milibrother has been spotted unwinding with his cellist wife Louise in the Victorian resort of Lyme Regis. "They were talking about opening a cheese shop," says Justin Tunstall, a local cheesemonger who had them in his shop. "I did say I didn't want the competition and he laughed at that." No doubt Miliband was drawn to Lyme by its famous Cobb, a raised walkway jutting into the sea, which has long been favoured for brooding walks: memorable examples in literature occur in Persuasion and The French Lieutenant's Woman. But Miliband has not hitherto been known as a cheese buff, bananas being more his thing. "They had a few cheeses and olives," says Tunstall, "but the cheesemonger code forbids me from telling you exactly what he had."

But perhaps Miliband's fantasy isn't so weird: apparently Edward Heath once confided that he had "a hidden wish – a frustrated desire to run a hotel". The intriguing revelation comes in Dominic Sandbrook's new book, State of Emergency: The Way We Were, Britain 1970-1974. As he observes: "The mind boggles at the prospect of Heath the hotelier; while he might have run a tight ship, surely even Basil Fawlty would have seemed warm and gregarious by comparison."

Booker-winning novelist J M Coetzee has opened a new front in the art of literary sabotage by giving away the twist of a rival's novel. Reviewing Philip Roth's Nemesis in The New York Review of Books, Coetzee begins by lavishing it with praise, describing it as "artfully constructed" and delighting in its "cunning twist toward the end". So why does he then go on to tell us what the clever twist is? "Generally, a reviewer will try not to spoil the impact of a book by giving away its proper secrets," he explains, helpfully. "But I see no way of exploring Nemesis further without breaking this rule. The secret is that ..." Roth keeps a dignified silence when I call – is he plotting his revenge already?

Sebastian Piñera (he's the president of Chile, in case you've been down a mine) is keen to forge bonds with David Cameron, a fellow newly elected moderate right-wing leader. Piñera is, understandably, keen to distance himself from the only Chilean leader anyone remembers, Augusto Pinochet. An awkward obstacle to Piñera's distancing campaign may be that his own brother, Jose, served as a minister in Pinochet's administration. Happily, a closer inspection of Jose's record suggests that far from endorsing the dictator's regime, he opposed various policies and, on one occasion, successfully blocked a trade union leader from being deported. He is also credited with Chile's pension reform, now being copied by many other countries.

Residents of Hampstead are up in arms after a commemorative frieze of George Orwell's face was stolen from a wall marking the location of Booklover's Corner, the second-hand shop where he worked in the 1930s. The criminal is not likely to be caught as no one saw who did it. One would suggest CCTV, were it not a monument to the author of 1984.