Diary

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The Independent Online
He's not Tory, he's my brother

SHOULD Kenneth Clarke succeed John Major as prime minister, I suspect Tory apparatchiks will have trouble with his younger brother, Michael, who has decided to hitch his wagon (he is a used car salesman) to the Liberal Democrats and, if asked, spread the word for them on the doorsteps. Until now he has described himself as a man with 'socialist leanings' who votes neither Conservative nor Labour. Recently, however, he has been making it known locally - he has a business in Lincolnshire - that he would not be averse to a visit from a Lib Dem representative.

'I'm not sure that this is apathy on the part of the Liberals, but it would be nice if one of the local party bothered to ring me up,' he moans in an East Midlands accent that his elder brother seems to have lost during his rise to power. 'I'm sure they could use the funds.'

Clarke senior will not be surprised - Michael recently criticised the Government in a local newspaper for not allowing local authorities to make more use of money raised by council house sales. Chris Rennard, the campaign director at the Lib Dem HQ in Cowley Street, London, is delighted by the new recruit. He expects him to help the party oust the local Tory MP, Sir Richard Body, adding: 'Lots of other people are signing up as a result of his brother's policies.'

CONSPIRACY theorists attacking Michael Portillo for condemning countries that sell degrees should know that his Master of Arts (Cambridge, 1st class, history) was acquired without money changing hands. While graduates wishing to upgrade a Bachelor of Arts at Oxford still pay pounds 10, and those at Trinity College, Dublin pounds 194, Cambridge graduates have received their MAs for nothing since the Sixties.

Canned memoirs DECLARED bankrupt in the High Court on 12 March last year, Sir Edward du Cann is hoping to raise some money by selling his memoirs - but has so far failed to attract an offer. The former Tory chairman needs the cash. Last month he was alleged to have applied for a pounds 325,000 mortgage without declaring that he was bankrupt - although his solicitor said that Sir Edward at no time tried to conceal the fact. Du Cann is currently living in a rented house on Alderney in the Channel Islands, having sold Cothay Manor, his 15th-century home in Somerset. He was out of contact yesterday, so details of his memoirs are limited. However, I'm surprised there are no takers. He has not played as senior a role in government as he would have liked - he is best remembered for his chairmanship of the 1922 Committee, although he was also Economic Secretary to the Treasury and then a trade minister - but he will be privy to some secrets from the Heath and Thatcher years. And then there is his life in the City of London. I would have thought that would make interesting reading.

THE News of the World agony uncle, Phillip Hodson, was not the only agony person not to sign the Stonewall letter on gay sex, he tells me following my item last week - but he was certainly the only one on a national newspaper. He did, he says, discuss the matter with his editor.

Arch response THE PUBLIC competition launched by Peter Brooke, the national heritage secretary, to redesign the area around Speakers' Corner, has attracted its first response. An art- loving member of the public has phoned Brooke's department to suggest that the brief be given to the Turner Prize winner Rachel Whiteread: 'She could fill in Marble Arch and call it Arch.'

WITH six days to go to Valentine's Day, suitors with money should know that a studio flat used by Edward VII and Lillie Langtry during their many moments of passion is for sale in Fulham. At pounds 300,000, a touch more expensive than roses.

A DAY LIKE THIS

8 February 1750 Horace Walpole writes to Sir Horace Mann on a series of earthquakes: 'We have had a second, much more violent than the first; and you must not be surprised if by the next post you hear of a burning mountain sprung up in Smithfield. There has been a shower of sermons and exhortations: the jesuitical Bishop of Oxford began the mode. He heard the women were all going out of town to avoid the next shock; and so, for fear of losing his Easter offerings, he set himself to advise them to await God's pleasure in fear and trembling . . . Within these three days 730 coaches have been counted passing Hyde Park Corner, with whole parties removing to the country. Several women have made earthquake gowns; that is, warm gowns to sit out of doors all night. These are of the more courageous. One woman, still more heroic, is come to town on purpose; she says all her friends are in London, and she does not wish to survive them.'

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