Diary

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The plots thicken at Westminster

SIR ROBIN DAY has become the latest to try his hand at the political novel. He is said to be concocting a devious parliamentary plot, although indiscretions are thought improbable. However, past adversaries are said to be worried that disclosures made during interviews might appear in a thinly disguised form a la Edwina Currie. Sir John Nott ('a transient here-today and, if I may say so, gone-tomorrow politician') and Baroness Thatcher, who addressed him as Mr Day shortly after he received his knighthood, are two would-be victims who spring to mind.

The doyen of political blockbusters, Lord Archer of Weston- Super-Mare, tells me the novel will not be tame. 'Sir Robin knows the House well, and he's a very in figure there. I would expect his book to be very lively; he is very well known to enjoy the company of women.' But recent Tory indiscretions do not inspire the bow- tied grand inquisitor, who tells me: 'When I turn on my radio in the morning and listen to the news I think, my God I can't put this sort of nonsense in my book.'

WITH all the adverse publicity surrounding his death, some decency prevails at the House of Commons, where Stephen Milligan's desk in the Norman Shaw South building is to remain unoccupied as a mark of respect.

Prom prominence

WHEN Mark Elder was sacked as conductor of the Last Night of the Proms after he suggested he might change the more nationalistic outpourings of the evening in the event of a conflict in the Gulf, his replacement, Andrew Davis, put in a barnstorming performance, with a speech crammed with jokes eschewing Elderesque politics. His reward, I'm assured, will be the conductor's baton at the swansong to this year's centenary concerts. It's too early to draw up the programme notes, but I'm told John Drummond has already commissioned a new work to be premiered by the deaf musician Evelyn Glennie. However, he has not yet decided who will belt out 'Rule Britannia'. Gwyneth Jones or Margaret Price are favourites for the job.

A SNIPPET from Tim Heald's biography of Dame Barbara Cartland, to be published in September. With various shooting types assembled at Camfield Place, her home in Hertfordshire, the novelist pointed out her prize duck, which, she suggested, should remain outside the perimeters of their sport. Their weapons safely back in the gun room, the sportsmen were later sitting down for tea when the door opened and a gentleman appeared with the words: 'Mr Hastings, your duck.' Heald tells me: 'I understand Max will not be invited back for a while.'

Touchy Tories

WHEN the tones of Ray Andrews, Tory leader of Thurrock council, hit the airwaves yesterday morning on the subject of whether or not to raise the age of consent for homosexuals, his apparent extreme homophobia so incensed one listener of Radio 4's Call Nick Ross programme that she called Conservative Central Office to complain. A woman answered, listened, and replied: 'Homosexuality is a wicked and devious perversion,' before slamming down the telephone. Central Office is not in the business of apportioning blame, although, as one spokesman kindly explained to me later: 'I suppose it is not an issue on which people are undecided.'

DINING at Shepherd's, one of his favourite restaurants in London the other night, Staffordshire's spirited MP, Michael Fabricant, was spotted by the owner-manager, Richard Shepherd, who recognised him as the tabler of a Private Members Bill aimed at ending compulsory tipping. Observing a waiter bearing down on the MP with the damage, Shepherd proferred the following advice: 'Waiter, slap a double service charge on that man's bill.'

A DAY LIKE THIS

16 February 1938 Chips Channon writes in his diary: 'Today I set out with Diana Cooper to rejoin my wife at Sestrieres. In Paris we drove to the Ritz, where we met Harold Balfour, and at 7.55 we left from the Gare de Lyon for Italy. Harold was sharing a wagon-lit with a dark, sinister, Bloomsbury-looking man. I looked at his luggage labels and read 'Dali', and we wondered whether he could be the great surrealist painter. During dinner in the train I approached him, and asked if he knew Lord Berners, which he did: he then joined us and we had an amusing dinner, rushing across Europe, Diana, Dali, Harold Balfour and I. Dali is Spanish, a native, I think, of Barcelona, but he seems to be pro-Franco. He told us that the anarchists had burnt his house. Our conversation had a disastrous effect on Diana's night, and she dreamed of women with flies coming out of their nipples and of babies with piano instead of human legs.'

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