Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (25/09/11)

The devil wears Prada
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The Independent Online

Widespread disgust met the release last week of footage showing two boys of eight and nine cage-fighting at a Preston working men's club. But don't assume this kind of behaviour is to do with class, for I can disclose that the Duchess of Northumberland, whose son George is a close friend of Pippa Middleton, is a fan of the sport. Indeed, she is a member of a martial arts club, and is hosting her very own cage fight in the grounds of Alnwick Castle next month to raise money for her garden. There is no suggestion that the practice is illegal, and only adults will compete at Alnwick. But it was an unfortunate moment for the duchess to begin promoting her event. Asked whether it will go ahead in the light of last week's news, a spokesman says: "Yep, all still going ahead! The duchess is excited about inviting the cage-fighting crowd to the garden."

Never mind Chris Huhne's pickle over driving licence points; I can reveal there is a new lawsuit in the Huhne household, involving his partner, Carina Trimingham. The journalist turned PR adviser is seeking damages from the Daily Mail because of their incessant references to her sexual past, which she says is irrelevant. She is seeking aggravated damages for breach of privacy, and has hired the media lawyer Charlotte Harris to represent her. "She has been harassed and treated hideously and reduced to a cliché," says Harris. "Mentioning someone's sexuality is a breach of the PCC's code, and they have repeated it despite being asked to stop. There were 63 references to her in the Mail in about a year, and all of them referred to her as a 'former lesbian' or bisexual." A date in court has been set for 4 October.

Paid motormouth Kelvin MacKenzie is only on his second column at the Daily Mail, but is he already running out of puff? I ask only because he seems unusually keen for readers to respond to his witterings. Yesterday he ended an item with the old cliché "Answers on a postcard please", and then, after a lame joke about the Greek finance minister's name, he said, "Grateful for any other emailed names." But in case we haven't got the point, a big panel at the bottom of the page reads: "If you have any stories, scandals or gags, please contact me at [gives email address] OR have your say about anything in this column at [gives web address]." We're reading, Kelvin, even if nobody else is.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger wrote a letter to readers yesterday, explaining why he has increased the price of his newspaper to £1.20. It seems some are finding this "a squeeze too far", and won't be buying it any more. One can't help feeling this will only support Rusbridger's argument that people are turning their backs on the print medium, in favour of online. Meanwhile, he apologises for making an analogy to the price of a cappuccino – "seen by some as an effete metropolitan beverage rather than an artisan Milanese form of coffee" – and suggests readers take out a six-day subscription, deftly insulting his colleagues at The Observer. The one thing he omits to tell hard-up readers is that is own salary is £411,000.

As writers such as Anne Sebba and Deborah Moggach descend on Marlborough for the Wiltshire town's literary festival, what of the ongoing battle to save the local libraries? This time last year, Wiltshire Council announced a freeze on buying any new books except the "top 10 bestsellers". Since then, half the council's librarians have been axed and replaced with machines. The thinking was that machines don't need paying or pensions or, indeed, uniforms. Librarians don't actually need uniforms either, though that wasn't the council's view when it splurged £40,000 on uniforms months before they wielded the axe. A mole tells me that the first library uniform has now been spotted in a Marlborough charity shop.

Who can blame Fiona Carnarvon for battering out a book about "the real Downton Abbey" to coincide with the start of the new series, as we reported last week? After all, she and her husband have allowed Hugh Bonneville and Julian Fellowes to trample all over their home to film the series. But it's harder to ignore her glossing over all the embarrassing sexy details about Almina Carnarvon, the real Cora Crawley. Though she does describe how Almina was the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild, she doesn't go into her reputation for promiscuity as chronicled by William Cross in his book, The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon. Best leave those family skeletons in the cup- board, eh?

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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