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

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The Independent Online

The Queen's view of Boris Johnson is unknown, but she is unlikely to be sorry if Ken Livingstone loses the London mayoral election. A new biography of Ken by Andrew Hosken records his long-standing hostility towards the Royal Family; he rejected an invitation to Charles and Diana's wedding, for instance. At the royal opening of the Thames Barrier, it was feared Ken would cause a scene. But disaster was averted by extending a shrewd invitation to his mum, Ethel, who was deemed "the best guarantor against anything untoward happening". Nodding at her son, Ethel said: "I am a royalist, no matter what he thinks."

Had Vince Cable run for Mayor of London, it would have been a chance to settle an old score. In the days before he transferred his allegiance to the Lib Dems, he was defeated by Ken Livingstone when seeking the Labour nomination for Hampstead. Ken's selection prompted some extraordinary snobbery, unimaginable now. One party member wrote: "It is a great pity when one thinks that there were, in the running candidature, two PhDs, a QC and several other graduates of reputable universities such as Oxford... This selection has been a clear use of Ovid's line: 'Video meliora, proboque; deteriora sequor' (I see the better things, I follow the worse)." At Ken's first Hampstead dinner party, he suffered the ignominy of chewing his way through a bouquet garni. "They're not standard fare in Lambeth," he whined.

If he isn't already, President Sarkozy will soon become an international butt of humour. A spoof documentary called 'Starko', to be aired next month, is tipped to be the toast of the Cannes Film Festival and is likely to be released over here. Meanwhile, his 21-year-old son, Jean "Scooter" Sarkozy, was last week made chief of his father's party, the UMP, in his home town of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Why the nickname? Sarkozy Jnr is facing legal proceedings, accused of driving off on his scooter after colliding with a BMW.

J K Rowling made a rare public appearance to pick up a "Nibbie" at the Galaxy British Book Awards at the Grosvenor House hotel in London last week. But the retiring Harry Potter author is no newcomer to the ceremony. She recalled the first time she attended, in 1998, back in the days before the Potter millions rolled in. The event was, she said, "the most glamorous thing I had ever been to... I got so drunk, I remember going to the loos and locking myself in a cubicle and pressing my face against the cool tiles. Fun days!"

'Imperium' author Robert Harris is one of the best-connected novelists around. Friends range from Blairites like Anji Hunter and Peter Mandelson to the Paxmans, Max Hastings and Sir John Mortimer. Indeed, he is now so popular that his old chum David Dimbleby can't persuade him to join him on his boat for his annual jolly any more. "You're not the boating sort, are you?" David's brother Jonathan asked Harris at a party last week. "I am, if there's a chilled bottle of champagne and a couple of beauties on the poop deck," Harris rejoined. What would Mrs Harris have to say about that?

Fans of Bob Marley will have been saddened to learn of the death of his mother, Cedella, on Tuesday. Now the mystery surrounding the identity of his father is likely to intensify. Norval Marley, who died when Bob was 10, was born in Jamaica, but his family hailed from Sussex. Rastafarians like to claim Bob was the son of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and many want his body exhumed and moved to that country. Mama Marley, who was born in the Jamaican village where Bob's body is enshrined, used to insist on its remaining there. There are thought to be several cousins of the great reggae singer living in Britain, although attempts to trace them have been fruitless.

After a lifetime of heavy smoking, playwright-turned-ashtray-diarist Simon Gray has revealed that he has a tumour in his lungs. The news comes at the end of his latest book, 'The Last Cigarette: The Smoking Diaries, Volume III', which brings more tales from Holland Park, where he lives with his very private wife, Victoria Rothschild, and near his not so publicity-shy friends, Harold and Antonia Pinter. Fans of Gray, worried that this is his swansong, need not fret. I can reveal that he has already written another book, with the title of 'Coda'. Here's hoping he has time for an encore, too.

On the subject of fags, camp comedian Alan Carr, discussed by Philip Hensher on this page, makes jokes about sharing a name with the revered anti-smoking author Allen Carr. He told an audience last week: "I'm writing a book myself – the title's going to be 'Go on, have a fag'."

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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