The IoS Diary (03/07/11)

It's one game to love

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Fat-cat union boss Bob Crow has been banned from eating at Scott's, the exclusive London restaurant, on the orders of proprietor Richard Caring. An email has been sent to all staff of Caprice Holdings, which includes restaurants such as The Ivy and Le Caprice, instructing them never to take bookings from Crow. The email was sent days after The Sun revealed that Crow had splurged £650 on a liquid lunch at Scott's, in Mayfair, to celebrate his 50th birthday last month. Fellow diners spotted the head of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union tossing back champagne, white wine and whisky with four friends. The email instructs staff not to take reservations from Crow or from Michael Hardacre, in whose name the booking was made – "EVER". Crow earns more than £90,000, but apparently there are some things he can't buy.

A N Wilson's biography of Dante prompted positive noises from the critics, who praised its vividness and lucidity. One lone voice of dissent was Andrew Motion, the former poet laureate, who roundly slated it in The Guardian. In a review headlined "Lost in a dark forest", Motion said, inter alia, that the book was "muddled and unsubstantiated", and "balanced precariously on the edge of dullness". But Motion knows what criticism is like: when he stepped down as laureate, one writer said: "Motion has not written anything anyone remembers. Not ever. As a poet he does not exist." Of course, the fact that this writer was one A N Wilson had no bearing on Motion's review of his book.

Sky anchor Adam Boulton was lined up to replace Alastair Campbell at No 10, according to Campbell's latest batch of diaries. Apparently Campbell sounded him out ahead of the 2001 election, and Boulton was keen. Back then, Boulton was still married to Kerena, though the affair with Anji Hunter, Blair's trusted gatekeeper, had begun. Is Campbell – who also confesses that he has started drinking again – dredging all this up to needle Boulton, who memorably lost it with Campbell live on air during last year's poll? What would Rupert Murdoch, Boulton's boss, make of news he was keen to defect? According to Campbell, he wanted to wait until the New Year, "partly for [Sky] share options".

Pupils at Kate Middleton's alma mater Marlborough College were encouraged to live outside their comfort zone at yesterday's prizegiving. Sir Hayden Phillips, chairman of the National Theatre, used his speech to explain how taking a risk had led him to land a part in a new film adaptation of Jane Eyre. When his daughter asked if she could bring home a young man who was stranded on his way back to New York, he agreed. Then he learnt the man was Cary Fukunaga, director of the new film starring Judi Dench and Jamie Bell. "I said I'd love to be in it, and got the part of Colonel Dent, and was given nine lines. My wife was given a non-speaking part, which is a recipe for domestic bliss," he quipped. The former mandarin didn't speculate on whether Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, had ventured beyond her comfort zone, though the school has certainly benefited from her new status. I'm told a thousand girls have applied to Mill Mead, Kate's boarding house, for next term.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that head boys and girls never amount to much after school. One exception is Gabby Bertin, David Cameron's much admired press secretary, who was head girl at Croydon High School. Now, after taking what she learnt at school into No 10, she has taken her No 10 wisdom back to school, addressing an AGM of the Girls' Day School Trust, which runs her old school. Although Chatham House rules were in place, some senior teachers blogged about it: "We heard Gabby Bertin ... give a riveting talk about her high pressure life at No 10," writes Sarah Dixon, head of Northampton High. Gabby is tight-lipped when I call, but a Croydon pupil tells me they are constantly asking her back. "I think the bar for old girls is quite low," she whispers.

Living exhibits Gilbert and George, below, told an audience at the London Literature Festival on Friday why they have never left the capital since moving in together 44 years ago. "We ventured to Devon recently, and were reminded of the great beauty of the countryside," said George. "Then we chanced on an idyllic village scene: a church, a teenage couple, with pale white skin holding their child. 'Good morning', we said. 'What the fuck are you looking at, you pair of weirdos,' was the response. You don't get that in London."

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