The IoS Diary (20/06/10)

Always in tune with the nation's mood swings

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Those exercised by global conspiracy theories will have been thrilled to learn some weeks ago that the device that should have stopped the Deepwater oil leak – the "blowout preventer" – was manufactured by an American firm called Cameron International. Cameron? No relation, surely? But now the plot is thickening. The firm that employs many of the rig's subcontractors is the drilling giant Schlumberger, which, wouldn't you just know it, was the surname of the woman David Cameron's paternal grandfather married. One more link and we'll all be able to say "It's all Dave's fault!".

Isn't opposition grand? Who should be seen at the Garrick Club the other day, breaking bread with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke? None other than his predecessor in the job, Jack Straw. You thinking of joining, Jack?

Victory for former heritage secretary David Mellor, who has helped to see off plans to build a 19-storey tower overlooking his 1828 Dockmaster's House in St Katharine Docks, London. The developers had appealed against a council decision to block the plan, which Mellor had called a "lump of glass... from the worst days of Mussolini". "They lost the appeal on all counts," says a delighted Mellor. "They got these big-swinging-dick planning consultants DP9 in and treated the residents with complete contempt. We had to raise £200,000 and signed up Keith Lindblom QC, the best in the business. They are limbering up for another go, but we'll do it all again if we have to."

Lest anyone doubt it, David Cameron has shown impressive loyalty to his forgetful press secretary Andy Coulson (a man of whom he bravely said "everyone deserves a second chance" after it emerged that royal mobile phones had been hacked at News International under Coulson's watch, but which Coulson claimed to know nothing about). The PM's loyalty was on show again last week when he arrived at Rupert Murdoch's summer party with his wife, Sam, and Coulson. But mystery continues to surround Murdoch's visit to No 10 the other day. What could they have found to talk about? Labour MP Tom Watson has put down a question asking if civil servants were present at the meeting and whether a note was taken, but the answer has been evasive. Maybe they'll be more forthcoming to another question from Watson, on whether No 10 has given Buckingham Palace any advice about electronic security.

Jenny Agutter has been recalling how film director Lionel Jeffries, who died in February, created an ambience for the younger members of The Railway Children cast – herself, Sally Thomsett and Gary Warren.

"He treated Gary, Sally and myself totally as children – so we kind of got into that feeling of being children. If a shot went well, he would give us half a crown and say 'go and get yourself some sweets – that was very good'. And we'd say 'thank you', but Sally [then nearly 20] would be muttering 'Hmmm. That's not going to go very far in the pub!'"

She adds: "Sally and I went out quite late one night, only to get back and find him sitting in the hall of the hotel, looking at his watch and saying, 'I hope you know your lines tomorrow. I hope you're going to be on top of it.' He very much played the father figure. And we were on top of it the next day, because we knew we had to be."

As Michael Mansfield argues on page 39, the shortcomings of the hurriedly prepared 45-page Widgery report, published in April 1972, are thoroughly evident. But however wrong Lord Widgery got it (he did at least call the planned arrest of demonstrators "debatable" and said the Army should have "maintained a low-key attitude"), you'd think someone would have spoken up for the much-lampooned lord, who died in 1981. The former brigadier had no children, and his widow, Ann Kermode, died recently. (Film critic Mark Kermode directs me to the Isle of Man, where all Kermodes are from originally, but there the trail goes cold.) Lord Howe, who was Solicitor General at the time, is reticent on the subject, and the barristers to the Widgery report have either moved abroad or to a higher place. Is there really no one to speak up for him?

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