Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (19/06/11)

Where every day is Ladies' Day
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The Independent Online

More fun on the phone-hacking front. A rumour reaches me that the News of the World is still paying the salary of sacked news editor Ian Edmondson, with whom, we were told, Rupert Murdoch was furious when "significant" evidence of unlawful voicemail interception emerged. Edmondson, incidentally, is known to have been under a lot of pressure recently, and is less than happy with his former employers. Anyway, I understand that the NoW has not been paying his salary, but has been making "duty of care" payments to his family. These have come to an end. Quite recently, actually, and apparently the police know about it. In any event, let's have no more cheap rumours about the buying of silence, please.

It was set to be a meeting of two of the world's most influential men – Bill Gates and Paul Dacre. But, alas, last week's scheduled encounter between the Microsoft billionaire and the editor of the Daily Mail was cancelled at the last minute. Accounts differ as to why this historic – and potentially world-changing – conference was scratched. Gates was in London to meet the Prime Minister and lobby the coalition to continue giving aid to the Third World. He even made time to appear on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman. It has been suggested that Dacre, who hates to be lobbied, preferring to trust his own judgment, was reluctant to be lectured by a geeky moneybags. Not true, says my man at the Mail, who reveals he and five senior executives had cleared their diaries for a meeting when Gates cancelled. "Gates asked to reschedule at the last minute," he explains, "and unfortunately a new window couldn't be found at such short notice."

Much excitement in the trendy St Katharine Docks area of east London, where top theatre director Rupert Goold has applied to create a temporary performance space. Notices have gone up round Commodity Quay, near the homes of David Mellor and David Suchet, announcing plans by the Headlong Theatre company for an all-signing and dancing multimedia space, from August to December. Goold, 38, who directed Lucy Prebble's award-winning Enron in 2009, is riding high on a wave of popularity for his new Merchant of Venice at Stratford, and last year's Earthquakes in London at the National, touring nationwide from September. But can he convince his would-be neighbours, who recently saw off plans for a skyscraper nearby? "When I first read the notices I thought it was for a lap-dancing club," harrumphs one suspicious resident. "But now I know it's Rupert, of course I welcome it." Mwua, mwua!

Stephen Fry may be about to feel the wrath of London's taxi drivers, over claims he illegally parked his black cab in a taxi rank, a pet hate among cabbies. Barry Hooper, an executive for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, has written a piece for Taxi magazine, accusing Fry of this most grievous of sins. "I have spoken to a couple of drivers that were very irate," writes Mr Hooper. "A bogus cab was left unattended on the John Lewis rank for a couple of hours. I'm told this cab belongs to comedian, writer, celebrity, Stephen Fry. If that's true, I'm no longer a fan." Mr Hooper is now appealing for photographic evidence of the incident, which occurred outside John Lewis on 4 June. Fry and Prince Philip are among a few savvy Londoners who drive an unlicensed black cab, partly for anonymity, partly for their excellent turning circle.

Sixties heart-throb Jess Conrad is playing down the sniping after being created OBE last weekend. Some wonder why the singer deserves it, given that his contribution to music includes three tracks so bad they made it on to Kenny Everett's compilation of bad music, The World's Worst Record Show. The gong was not for music, however, but for Conrad's "services to charity". "I've always been very serious about my work and about charity things," he tells the diary from Marbella, where he has been attending the Rhys Daniels Trust Butterfly Ball. In a sign of Conrad's continuing popularity in certain blue-rinsed spheres, a pair of his underpants fetched £500 during the charity auction. Conrad took it in his stride. "Women still fall for me," he says. "But mainly because they're too old to stand up."

St Paul's Cathedral is without scaffolding for the first time in 15 years, after a £40m restoration. The poles are down in time to celebrate 300 years since its completion, in 1711, and ahead of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations next year. Earlier this year, Her Majesty was reported to be suffering knee pain, which could be a problem when she comes to walk up the west entrance's 24 steps. Palace officials insist she is quite capable, but it's intriguing to see a swish new ramp has been unveiled at the north door.