The <i>IoS</i> Diary (31/01/10)

Up with the lark, out with the owls
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The Independent Online

Oh dear. It seems Jasper Gerard, restaurant critic of The Daily Telegraph, has got into a bit of a tangle. Last week he wrote an unflattering reference to Mr Underhill's restaurant in Ludlow, recently voted Britain's best by Harden's restaurant guide, saying it was "not the best restaurant in Britain; it's not even the best restaurant in Ludlow". It seems there is some history here. Over to Mr Underhill's. "Last summer," they say, "we were offered a review [by Gerard] in exchange for providing free accommodation for him, his wife and his two children. This was not something we felt comfortable with so we declined the offer." Well, Jasper? He says a) that his remark was directed at "a certain guidebook", not at Mr Underhill's (and here I would refer you to the Harden's website for news of his less than happy relationship with the guide) and b) "The claim is completely untrue", although he seems reluctant to speak further, and is unavailable on his mobile. And what does Mr Underhill's say? "We are withdrawing nothing but not pursuing it any further." Hmm.

Alastair Campbell, suddenly less bashful now that he has a book to plug, has revealed to Tatler magazine (but of course) that he's scared of dentists. He also announces that when out running, he listens to Nelly Furtado, Akon, Taylor Swift, the Bee Gees live at Massachusetts, or anything with good running rhythm. Well, that's more revealing than what he told Chilcot.

A good weekend for the News of the World, what with all this John Terry malarkey, but this week may not be all plain sailing for the paper. Glenn Mulcaire, one of the men sent to prison for hacking into the phones of all those celebrities on behalf of the paper, is likely to be in court again. He is a co-defendant in Max Clifford's claim that the newspaper was guilty of listening in on his voicemail messages too, so you can expect his lawyer to be there at very least. The News of the World, though, denies everything.

In America it recently closed four titles, but Condé Nast UK appears to be booming. MD Nicholas Coleridge is said to have made noises recently about acquiring Country Life, the upmarket weekly founded in 1897. But alas it is not for sale, and remains firmly in the ownership of IPC. "We haven't had any discussions of any kind about buying Country Life, or at least not for about five years," he says when I call. "We certainly admire the magazine and it would fit well into our company. But sadly it isn't for sale."

Never mind WMD. Eagle-eyed observers of the diplomatic scene are in a state of heightened alert by an apparent change in the appearance of Sir Jeremy Greenstock, formerly Britain's Person at the UN and, we learned last week, one of the people responsible for persuading the Attorney General to change his mind about the legality of the Iraq war. (Hope he's happy about that.) They claim Sir Jeremy has had a hair weave. My own view is that so distinguished a mandarin could not have so base a preoccupation as personal vanity. Nonetheless, in a spirit of public disclosure, it seems appropriate to allow the reader to decide.

And on the subject of personal image, I hear that Michael Gove is preparing himself for the new austerity, now that the Tory front bench is scaling down outside earnings. He has told the new edition of GQ magazine that he'll economise once outside earnings are banned by borrowing ties from his best man Ed Vaizey, who apparently has plenty. Gove has form on this. He borrowed Vaizey's Salvatore Ferragamo tie to wear when delivering his speech at the 2009 Tory conference. You read it here first. In the same piece, by the way, Gove also reveals he used to receive the belt at school for "persistent cheek" (no comment), failed his driving test seven times and he refers to the BBC – his former employers, NB – as "cosy, bureaucratic and stultifying". They're not making any secret of it, are they? Tin hats on at Broadcasting House!