Sindy: The IoS Diary (08/08/10)

It's got teeth. And all its own hair

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Intriguing to see that Jack Straw will be writing a book of memoirs. He has lowered expectations by saying that he doesn't believe in breaking confidences, which is perhaps the least you would expect, given what he has said about others doing so. Of Britain's former ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, he said: "He destroyed his reputation... the legacy of his publication and his betrayal is a very substantial one and very poor one for him." (Meyer, you may recall, described Straw joyously as "a man more to be liked than respected".) Straw also prevented our former ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, from publishing his sensation-free memoirs. So Straw, who has announced he will be stepping down from the Labour frontbench, will be treading a tricky line between revelation and tedium. His shifts of position on torture, his disaffection with Gordon Brown, his failure to resign over the Iraq invasion, his rage at being moved from the Foreign Office by Tony Blair, and BP's role on Megrahi's release would be a start.

Could Elaine Stritch be due a return to not only London but the London stage? Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, in London for 80th birthday celebrations, has been talking to friends about his latest casting plans: who should appear in a new production of Follies at the Haymarket Theatre in London next year, part of a major season of productions overseen by Trevor Nunn. Judging by his musings at a preview of Educating Rita last week, La Stritch, the grande dame of the musical stage, who has spent much of her career in London but now lives at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, could be packing up her dancing shoes and booking her airline ticket to the capital. If so, at 84, her career could be about to take off too. When Eartha Kitt sang Sondheim's showstopping, older woman's anthem to survival, "I'm Still Here", in the last London production of Follies, 20 years ago, she pocketed an Olivier award and went on to mount her own sell-out show. I'd get an open return, Elaine.

Much has been made of the "ordinariness" of David Miliband's state education. But I am told that the wannabe Labour leader, and son of Marxist sociologist Ralph Miliband, was the beneficiary of a leg-up from one of the country's most elite universities. In an attempt to broaden the class base of its intake, some Oxford dons started reaching out to state schools by organising summer camps, school visits, etc. In general, their efforts came to very little, but from Haverstock School, in Camden, they managed to attract the Milibands. So, one of the people to benefit from the attempt to remedy the mixed success of a socialist experiment was the middle-class child of a well-connected socialist.

I spy Stranglers, or rather Pistols. Former Sex Pistol John Lydon has been reminiscing about the late 1970s, when he used to drop in at the House of Commons terrace. "I used to go there to drink," he has told Classic Rock magazine. "I knew one of the girls who was on the game, and she used to get us in... they didn't know I was the person they were condemning daily in that House – and there I was in that bar. They honestly can't put two and two together, these tw-ts... There I am – if I'm apparently a foul-mouthed, illiterate, dumb yob from the council flats, how come my lyrics are being openly discussed in the Houses of Parliament under the Traitors and Treasons Act? That act still carried, at that time, a death penalty."

The renewal of Trident remains a contentious issue, but an old associate of the Tory leader from Oxford tells me that Dave has never been particularly enamoured of that facet of Britain's nuclear deterrent. While he admits his memory is hazy, my informant recalls a debate at Oxford University when Cameron voted against its introduction, which some Tories regarded as being worse than supporting CND. "If it was a 'proper' debate, there will be a record of it in the minutes, but it may not have been," says my man in the moth-eaten dinner jacket. Sadly the Union [debating society] has no record of such a debate, so we may never learn the truth about Dissident Dave.

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