Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (21/08/11)

It's very rock'n'roll
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The Independent Online

John Bercow has sensibly left the country while his wife makes us flinch on Celebrity Big Brother. But, I'm sorry to report, the Speaker has also been embarrassing himself. On Friday, he delivered a speech in Delhi in which he declared it was his first time in India. But, according to my files, he previously visited India in September 2007, during a fact-finding mission to Burma. He visited the region of Mizoram, one of the "Seven Sister states" of north-eastern India, while travelling with fellow Tory Baroness Cox. Yes, four years is a long time in politics, but isn't that what researchers are for: to, er, check facts when memories fail?

An MP is joining hunters on a controversial mass slaughter of 2,000 baby gannets this weekend. Angus MacNeil has set sail for the remote island of Sula Sgeir, where the ritual of bludgeoning guga chicks to death with rocks takes place every August. The SNP member for the Western Isles has endorsed the hunt, saying it has "legendary status", despite repeat calls for the 500-year-old practice to be abandoned. Every summer, 10 men spend 10 days harvesting the birds, which are prized for their rich oily meat. The chicks are hoiked out of their nest with a pole, then bashed over the head with a stone, one by one. The Scottish SPCA brands the practice "cruel". MacNeil first made headlines as the MP who triggered the cash for honours scandal in 2006, by joining Martin Bell in lodging a complaint against Labour to the police. He was later forced to apologise after snogging two teenage constituents. Some people welcome MacNeil's backing. The local mantra goes: "When the English stop killing five million turkeys for Christmas, we'll stop catching guga."

Wiltshire MPs have been engaging in a spot of competitive column-writing in their local newspaper. Claire Perry, the former banker and Tory member for Devizes, has seized the opportunity for some swanking, telling us the Perry family is spending the recess on the shores of Lake Tahoe, on the California border with Nevada. Top swanks! Over the page, meanwhile, the Lib Dem MP for Chippenham, Duncan Hames, has written a piece headlined "No time for a summer break in my constituency". He piously says he's using the time off "visiting businesses and community organisations and hosting my regular surgeries – all made more practical by not leaving for London each week". As the economy freefalls and businesses close, I wonder who will fare better come the election.

Ruby Wax is living in a weird ménage à trois while performing at the Edinburgh Festival. The comedian, who has generated gags out of mental illness for her show Losing It, tells me she has moved into a broom cupboard to get some rest while living in a vast Georgian mansion. Sharing the house is the co-star of her show, Judith Owen, whose husband, Harry Shearer, was once Ruby's boyfriend. Shearer's is the voice of Mr Burns and Ned Flanders in The Simpsons, and he also co-wrote and performed in the 1984 film This Is Spinal Tap. He later married Owen, a Welsh singer-songwriter, now Wax's best friend. Only the house's proximity to a main road was keeping Wax awake at night. "I've never been as happy as I am in my closet," she tells me. "It's like a womb. In fact, it's a better womb than I had originally."

Graham Norton has become an enthusiastic dog-walker since acquiring Bailey, a labradoodle, and Madge, a terrier cross, six years ago. The TV presenter can often be seen exercising them in the parks near his London docklands home. So, no doubt, he will be joining neighbours who oppose proposals to erect a 6ft fence around Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden, a peaceful park dedicated to victims of the Blitz, and one of his favoured haunts. The plan is to stop the trend of excitable young men meeting there in the evening, but residents oppose shutting the park at night. "We saw off the Luftwaffe during the war," huffs one. "So we're quite capable of seeing off a few youths."

Olivia Wilde has impressed the makers of Cowboys and Aliens, a new film starring Daniel Craig, by doing her own stunts. In a chase scene, in which an alien lifts the 27-year-old off a galloping horse, she did the riding herself (the alien was played by an actor). Her bravery and acting may make up for other deficiencies: Wilde politely apologised at the Locarno premiere of the film "for not speaking any Swiss". A co-star gently suggested that French, German or Italian would do.