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

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The Independent Online

Redaction is a term we are all a lot more familiar with following the extraordinary blackwash of MPs' expenses forms. What a rich language it is that we now have a word for "taking a black marker to embarrassing acts of self-indulgence we don't want the public to know about". But redacting is not to be taken lightly. In the US it is taken very seriously indeed, so much so that a document has been drafted by the National Security Agency, entitled Redacting with Confidence: How to Safely Publish Sanitized Reports. This fascinating pamphlet, seen by the diary, gives a step-by-step guide to using Word 2007 to blot out all those embarrassing state secrets, including text, charts and images. XXXX brilliant.

A splendid footnote to the story of chaos outside Conway Hall in Bloomsbury last week, when the controversial Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun tried to reconvene after a five-year break. Members of the hall's management, who are humanists, had refused to let the Islamists in because they were trying to segregate the women from the men. But also holding a meeting in another room at the hall that day was Peter Tatchell, the in-yer-face gay rights campaigner, who, not being a woman, passed unnoticed through the rowdy mob of hardline Islamists. "I was delighted when I arrived to find a sea of people had come to hear me speak," he tells me. "I walked through the crowd and was greeted with smiles. So imagine my disappointment when it turned out they weren't there to hear me address the London Humanist Society at all. Such a disappointment."

Has Penelope Fillon, Welsh wife of French Prime Minister François, been importing Westminster habits to Paris? Satirical French mag Le Canard Enchaîné reports that the Fillons went off en famille to Morocco for a long weekend last month, travelling by a very luxurious – sorry, practical – Falcon 50 mini-jet, charged to the state on the grounds that the PM "might have to be called back at any moment". The Fillons then reimbursed the state for "an amount based on the equivalent cost of a commercial flight seat", according to the rules. But hiring a Falcon jet apparently costs about €2,600 per hour, so the total cost, the paper estimates, is €180,000, of which the Fillons would have to pay a mere few hundred. Fellow Welsh jetsetter Glenys "gravy train" Kinnock, soon to be baroness, can only shake her head in admiration.

In its listing of the more outrageous expenses claims yesterday, The Times accused Ed Balls of claiming for a book called The Rebels: How Blair Misled His Majority. Balls is a well-known Brownite, so it stands to reason he would be reading anti-Blairite propaganda, they must have thought. In fact quite the opposite is true – the correct title of that book, by Philip Cowley, is in fact The Rebels: How Blair Mislaid His Majority. Quite a difference, and perhaps a more surprising bedtime read for Balls.

We look forward to a clear-out of the Lower House, but please can we not disturb the upper one? I'm told there is a small brown mouse who has made his home in the peers' meeting room in the Palace of Westminster. Such is his murine charm that none of the peers who have seen him has complained to the authorities because they like having him about the place. Reports that Ann Widdecombe deliberately dropped crisps on a recent visit are, however, unconfirmed.

Richard Griffiths once asked a woman to leave the theatre when her phone went off during The History Boys. But it would have been a little complicated if the same principle had been applied at a production of Dominic Cavendish's play Orwell: A Celebration in the West End last week. During an extra reading of passages from Orwell afterwards, proceedings were suddenly interrupted by the usual loud "Breep!". Heads swivelled to find it coming not from the audience but from actor Ben Porter on stage. Earlier during the play a projection behind the stage went blank and beamed the word "searching" before the computer had to be manually rebooted. The show must go on!