Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (19/12/10)

Never afraid to walk into a blizzard
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The Independent Online

He is the saviour of transparent journalism – though he is far too modest to tell you himself. But even John Pilger isn't as objective as you might expect. When he's not raising money for Julian Assange's bail money, he presides over judging the Martha Gellhorn Prize, an annual gong in memory of the throaty foreign correspondent. Last year, Pilger was keen to award the prize to Assange, even though entrants must submit two long articles of 1,500 words or more to qualify, and Assange is not known for his journalism. Other judges disagreed, and The Independent's Johaan Hari won. Now, I'm told, he is even more resolved that Assange should win, though fellow judges are yet to be convinced. As it happens, they were due to meet at Pilger's house yesterday morning, but cancelled because of the snow. Mysteriously, he also lost all power at his home. Let's hope the dark forces persecuting Assange haven't turned on Pilger.

Doesn't the timing of Tom Baldwin's appointment as Ed Miliband's chief spinner tell you everything about the train crash that lies ahead? For it came in the week that a senior Labour MP called for hard drugs to be legalised – including cocaine, a stimulant with which Baldwin is alleged to have more than a passing acquaintance. Bob Ainsworth's surprise outburst caused Miliband much embarrassment, and he was forced to rush out a statement distancing himself from the controversial position. How will anyone take Miliband's next statement on drug use seriously, now that "Snorter" Baldwin is in charge?

Alarming news for the posh but poor users of the London Library, the rarefied St James's Square club, which appears set to lose its charitable status. Members have been told that they will no longer be able to claim Gift Aid on their membership, a sign that the library's long-running battle to maintain its charitable status has been lost. The news will be a blow to less well-off members struggling to cope with a massive price hike in the annual fee, which rose from £210 to £375 in 2008. The controversial fee move was spearheaded by the playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, but was vigorous opposed by other members, including Bamber Gascoigne. Part of the library's appeal has always been that it provides a haven for up-and-coming writers in central London. The latest newsletter tries to sugar the pill by announcing that members are entitled to free use of Blacks, the private members' club, between 11am and 6pm. But apart from being a 20-minute walk away, the louche Soho club is unlikely to hold much appeal for the hard-working writers who actually use the library to get away from all that.

Model Charlie Gilmour, stepson of Pink Floyd guitarist David, was the surprise face of the student riots. But Dad's £80m fortune is an unfortunate distraction from Charlie's otherwise impeccable revolutionary credentials. As a tabloid "special investigation" – it was more a rifle through Who's Who – "revealed", his biological father, the poet Heathcote Williams, founded the Albion Free State in the 1970s, when squatters staked out a corner of Notting Hill and named it a utopian country, free from government control. And his mother, Polly Samson, is the daughter of one-time communists. In her poetic new book, Perfect Lives, a character even writes of taking her infant son to protests . "Having Angus in his pushchair made me feel historic, like Demeter charged with a flaming torch." To the manner born, then.

His acting roles have included Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, Ian Brady in Longford, and Captain Haddock in the forthcoming Tintin film. But Andy Serkis has clearly set his children's sights on High Art. The Serkis family were among a star-spangled audience at the English National Ballet's new Nutcracker on Wednesday, rubbing shoulders with Kate Moss, Sadie Frost and Jerry Hall, who had three Jagger children in tow. While some snipers wondered why so many slebs had attended the Swarovski-sponsored performance, at which crystal-filled goodie bags were doled out afterwards, the three young Serkis children showed genuine appreciation. "This is SO much better than last year" announced one, knowledgeably. And he was right.

Will it never end? Ever since James Naughtie accidentally called the Culture Secretary the c-word live on air, presenters of the Today programme have been stumbling all over the place. Naughtie referred to WikiLeaks as Wikilikes, then yesterday Sarah Montague called Guardian critic Nicholas Lezard a literary cricket. To be fair, they were discussing how he is having to stay up all night to listen to the Ashes. He must have been too tired to notice.