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

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The Independent Online

Much cheering for British film-making when 'Atonement' scooped an Oscar, but Ian McEwan was nowhere to be seen.

The retiring novelist has escaped to a remote corner of Tasmania, saying he would feel parasitic if he attended. McEwan is staying at the holiday home of local author Richard Flanagan on Bruny island, to do some thinking and walking, and tackle the manuscript of his next novel.

But I hear there was panic one day when McEwan and his wife, Annalena, failed to return from a walk. Tasmania is home to a smorgasbord of wild beasties, and after several hours of no show there were fears for the couple's safety. Luckily, the McEwans eventually re-emerged from the bush unharmed, the only damage being to their pride, for having got lost.

Perhaps they should stick to Chesil beach.

Labour donor David Abrahams has resolved never to talk to the British press. But he chirrups away in an interview with the 'Jerusalem Post' on his special subjects – the state of the Labour Party and political donations. "Personally, I think all parties' campaigns should be state-funded," he opines. "Then none of this kind of thing would have happened."

Abrahams goes on to expound on the raw deal given to Jews in Britain. "My father used to be written about in the press quite a lot, and I often wondered why they called him the son of poor Russian immigrants. Our family had been in England since 1890. It was absurd. They don't say that so-and-so is the son of Irish immigrants, so why do they single out Jews for this kind of treatment?

"... In Britain, Jewish people are viewed slightly differently from everybody else. We've always been a minority and singled out for special treatment."

Not least by the Labour Friends of Israel.

Lord Stern, he of the climate change review, has admitted he didn't go nearly far enough in his report. Giving a lecture at the London School of Economics last week, Stern let his hair down and admitted that the Stern review had "seriously underestimated" the costs of climate change and "overestimated the ability of the planet to absorb CO2".

The lecture was given as part of the Ralph Miliband programme. Stern praised the late Marxist theorist, father of David and Ed, especially for his criticism of the Vietnam War. "It was the most shameful chapter in the history of the Labour Party," said Stern, "although that was a long time ago. We can ask David [Miliband] whether that is still true when he comes to LSE. I'm glad I'm out of government."

Lib Dem MP Evan Harris is an outspoken defender of the freedom of speech. So when the Oxford Union invited him to a debate with BNP leader Nick Griffin and revisionist historian David Irving, Harris gamely accepted, as long as the Union hacks did all the legwork.

But he clearly regrets his decision. He told a meeting of the Manifesto Club last week that the debate was a "shambles", and complained of the Union's hedonistic bent. "They're so badly organised," he said, "I don't know how they're even able to get the cocaine up their noses."

A tense weekend for Alain Ducasse, the new star chef at The Dorchester. Although he already boasts 15 Michelin stars from his 24 restaurants worldwide, tomorrow he will learn if that figure is to change on the publication of the 2008 'Michelin Guide to France'. Of particular concern will be the assessment of his newly revamped gig at the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Jules Verne. Under previous management the restaurant lost its single-star status.

Ducasse is the only man in the world to have as many stars as Gordon Ramsay. No doubt Gordon will be looking forward to tomorrow's verdict too.

Amy Winehouse has enjoyed fame at an early age, but it could have happened years earlier. Julie Burchill recalls being asked to listen to the young diva by Winehouse's aunt, Debra Milne, a consultant histopathologist in Sunderland, but she never got round to it.

According to a new book by Chas Newkey-Burden, it was when Burchill was making a documentary about her father's death from asbestosis that she met Milne. "When the cameras stopped rolling, she asked me 'Do you still write about music?'" says Burchill. "I said not really, and Debra added: 'Because I wonder if you'd like to see my niece next week? She's really great though she's only 16.'

"She was a lovely, tiny, sweet woman. Names are the one thing I always remember, and also because it was a Jewish name and so pretty it stuck in my mind."

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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