Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary

One eye on the Moon, the other on the stars
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The Independent Online

What is the point of Mihir Bose, the BBC's sports editor? This is the question many viewers have been asking since watching his interview with Real Madrid honcho Florentino Perez, conducted at great expense but eliciting almost no new information.

A mere 16 seconds of the interview was used on BBC News, but Bose's blog about it drew scathing comments. "Nowhere in the article does it say anything of interest to anyone," says one. "It seems that again the BBC have gone on holiday and used the public money for it," adds another. Bose's visit to Madrid follows an excursion to Munich by Newsnight economics editor Stephanie Flanders, after the question of whether Britain and Germany can become more alike popped into her head. But a BBC spokesman defends Bose: "This was the first sit-down interview with Fernando Perez since his return to president of Real Madrid. It covered a range of areas including the speculation about the Real Madrid debt... Mihir was in Madrid for one night, with one cameraman, and he also covered a story about Madrid bidding for the 2016 Olympics. Value for money is always taken into consideration."

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Conductor Sir Edward Downes had a close association with the Royal Opera House stretching over more than half a century, but you wouldn't have known it had you been there on Tuesday night. News of his joint suicide with his wife in Switzerland was given wall-to-wall coverage by the BBC, with whose Philharmonic Orchestra he also worked closely, but it was quite a different story at Covent Garden. Audience members for that evening's performance of Tosca were astonished that no mention was made of Sir Edward's death, not least as he was an expert on Verdi and had conducted Tosca there. "We are arranging something linked to Verdi for Edward Downes in the future," says a spokesman. "We were still taking in the information on Tuesday." In your own time, chaps.

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Much intrigue surrounds the shock defection of crabby colonial author V S Naipaul from his agent Gillon Aitken to Andrew "the Jackal" Wylie. "Gillon and V S were really close friends, so it is much more than just a professional rift," whispers one friend. The separation is believed to have been caused by Wylie, who would have lured Naipaul away from Aitken with the promise of more money and glory. While Wylie is famed for his ruthless business sense, a recent biography of Naipaul claimed he was equally hard-headed, keeping a mistress for 24 years whom he then refused to marry when his wife died, opting for a third woman. Wylie was once a business partner of Aitken's, who acted as a kind of mentor when they ran the agency Aitken, Stone and Wylie. All this has left Aitken feeling doubly betrayed, I'm told, although an associate says he isn't the energetic agent he once was. At least he didn't seem to have enough energy to return my call.

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It's hard enough for MPs to work out their loyalties in Westminster, but Ed Balls has the added headache of divided loyalties among his constituents. As his constituency of Normanton has been abolished, he will be running for nearby Morley and Outwood at the next election. But it hasn't taken Ballsy too long to work out where his priority lies – with the next lot, of course! Prospective voters in Morley have been invited to Ed's Fajita Fling this Friday, a jolly soirée at the Labour Rooms with free food and drink. The invitation shows Ed's already got himself an address in the constituency, whose incumbent MP Colin Challen has been gracefully elbowed out the way to assist Balls's unstoppable ascent. His loyal wife and neighbouring MP, Yvette Cooper, below, will doubtless be there, but the poor folk of Normanton are already but a distant memory.

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Those green shoots Baroness Vadera once spoke of finally sprouted last week when JP Chase Morgan, the US banking giant, announced profits of £1.6bn for the second quarter. "It was a truly positive surprise which does away with the question of whether we actually have reached the end of the crisis," said one happy soul. Trebles all round then, not least chez Blair, where Cherie is getting over swine flu. One of Tony's many jobs is in a "senior advisory role" at JP Morgan, salary not unadjacent to £2m a year. Kerching!

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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