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The right friend for Portillo?

IF Michael Portillo stumbles on the way to the promised land, historians may attribute it to his links with the right-wing businessman and political adviser David Hart. A number of Tory MPs have warned the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that unless he ends his close association with Hart, they won't support him in a leadership contest. Hart, a former adviser to Baroness Thatcher, is a great admirer of her protege. He is believed to have drafted some of Portillo's party conference speech last year, and has entertained Portillo at his estates in Suffolk and Scotland. In some quarters, this relationship may do Portillo no harm. Hart has made a sizeable contribution to the Tory cause, both in energy and finance. However others are more wary, chiefly because he is too right wing. Hart does have style, however. Hauled in by Margaret Thatcher to help to sort out the miner's strike, he infuriated the then Energy Secretary, Peter Walker, by summoning working miners to his suite at Claridge's. 'You cannot run this strike from Claridge's,' Walker shouted at him down the phone. With enviable equanimity, the go- getter replied: 'I seem to be doing all right so far.'

Police investigating a murder stopped drivers on the A606 in Leicestershire to elicit information from regular travellers. Because this created a tailback, Inspector Kevin Burrows had a bright idea . . . As a result, according to Police magazine, local radio stations swung into action, advising motorists to seek an alternative route. The murderer, I assume, remains at large.

Once a write-off The meteoric rise of James Truman from cub reporter on the Ham & High to editorial director of Conde Nast Publications has been considerably faster than the speed with which he writes his articles. In the late Seventies, Truman was given three months to write a 6,000-word piece on Bryan Ferry for Melody Maker, but had written only 500 of them by the night before the magazine went to press. Early the following morning, the deputy editor, Michael Watts, woke to the sounds of a typewriter, looked out of his bedroom window, and beheld Truman in the back of a mini, tapping away. 'By the time we left for Liverpool Street to catch a train to the printers in Colchester, he had written another 500 words,' Watts tells me. 'I locked him in the guard's van, where he continued to type, but by the end of the day he had only managed 2,000. We had to fill the rest of the space with big pictures.'

'EDWARD WINDSOR to see Michael Grade,' the young television producer (flanked by plain-clothed wallahs) announced yesterday afternoon as he presented himself at the reception desk of Channel 4. Drawing up an 'E Windsor' lapel badge for the visitor, the receptionist wanted to get the name right. 'How's Windsor spelt?' she asked.

Esprit de corps WILL the Nureyev protege Sylvie Guillem attend the grand finale tribute to her mentor on 13 March at the Coliseum in London? The two dancers fell out four years ago when Guillem defected from the Paris Opera ballet, where Rudolf Nureyev taught, for London's Royal Ballet. She initially turned down the invitation, but was asked to reconsider by Derek Deane, the Royal Ballet's artistic director. According to a spokesperson for the ballerina, her refusal may have been the result of 'an administrative error. She thought she would be in France'. I'm sure it will be all right on the night.


28 January 1950 Joseph Randolf Ackerley, the English author, writes in his diary: 'My dear tree, or part of it, my shrine on Wimbledon Common, has been cut down. Walking there with Queenie (his dog) I suddenly came upon it, my lovely tree, with one of its great legs lopped off. I was dreadfully upset . . . owing to last summer's fires, some clearing of trees has been going on. Then suddenly on Tuesday, I came upon it, this grand old birch, mutilated. I looked for the woodsmen to save the remaining leg, but they were nowhere to be seen. And anyway, what does the other leg now matter, for the attraction of the tree was the leave it gave to walk through it, the way it opened its arms and legs to receive me. I am so very sorry. The common has now lost one of its main interests for me. How could they have mutilated it, that grand old tree, the largest and finest in the wood?'