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A spy writer shies from prying eyes

JOHN LE CARRE is very reluctant to see himself biographised - so reluctant that he has now served a writ for libel on the author Graham Lord before the latter has even produced his le Carre book. Both Lord, the biographer of Jeffrey Bernard, and the novelist Robert Harris have contracts to produce biographies of le Carre, but the subject has said that he has 'absolutely no enthusiasm' for the projects, and will not assist either writer. The writ is over Lord's outline proposal for the book that he sent to nine publishers. In it, Lord wrote that while he admires some of le Carre's books, he finds 'several of them grossly overwritten and a touch pretentious' - that, of course, is not actionable; what has offended le Carre are allegations in the outline about his private life. Lord was subsequently signed up to produce the biography by the publishing company Little, Brown; but yesterday all parties were keeping strictly mum. Meanwhile, Robert Harris tells us that he has not been put off by le Carre's shyness: 'I'm going ahead with it - I think le Carre will co-operate.' Harris is operating in quite a different way from Lord. Of le Carre, he says: 'He is, in my opinion, the greatest living British author.'

AT LAST, the Conservative Party has its first female whip] That is the proud message being broadcast by the woman in question, Teresa Gorman, the MP for Billericay. One problem - after questioning, she reveals that the enlightened group which has appointed her is not the Government but the Tory Euro-rebels.

Rotten interview

IT'S goodbye, then, to Bill Grundy, the television interviewer who became famous in 1976 when he made the Sex Pistols even more famous by - it was said - inciting them to swear on live television. Unable to contact John Lydon (ex-Rotten) for a comment on Grundy's death on Tuesday, we turned instead to James Holmes of Waltham Abbey, Essex. He became quite famous (front page of the Daily Mirror) because while watching the interview, he grew so angry at the rude words that he kicked his television set to pieces. Holmes, now 63 and retired from lorry driving, expressed sadness at the news of Grundy's demise. And he regrets having smashed his television: 'I blamed Grundy for annoying me, but then I realised it wasn't his fault but the studio's. It was the wrong decision entirely to have them on at that time of night.' Holmes bought a new television - but Grundy was suspended from his job.

ITALIAN politics are . . . well, incomprehensible, deeply corrupt, less hypocritical and more fun. No? Well, here's the newly elected Senator Luciano Benetton, explaining why he has given up oiled ducks and is now advertising his shops with pictures of himself, naked. 'The people want to see and know who they are giving their vote to. My appearing nude is a metaphor of how one should necessarily behave as a parliamentarian.'

Bad vibrations

THERE'S a beating of breasts at the Times, a newspaper of record, which, it appears, has greatly offended the Brazilian Minister of Justice. A stern memo has been sent round the paper by its legal department - subject: a cutting from a Brazilian newspaper featured in Matthew Parris's column. 'Police arrest minister of justice in hotel bedroom with wife, prostitute, drugs, liquor and 28cm vibrator' was the quote, but it seems it was mistranslated. The man in question was not Brazil's Minister of Justice, but a subordinate, who has now been sacked. (The latter was only doing his job: his responsibilities included assessing pornography.) The other error in the piece was that the vibrator was 25cm long - not 28cm. 'Obviously,' the legal department adds, warning against repeating these errors, 'we do not want to be accused of contempt through exaggerating the evidence. Or by overstating the yardstick of obscenity in Brazilian law.' The Brazilian embassy here will be writing a stiff letter.


11 February 1970 Tony Benn writes in his diary: 'To the Management Committee where Harold made a 20-minute opening speech about the bias of the BBC against him personally; he remembered everything that had ever happened over the years. I listened, though I was extremely bored by it, as were most of the others. At the end I said, 'Well, Prime Minister, this is undoubtedly true, but doesn't it raise the question of whether we ought not to appear on programmes ourselves? For example, I have been prevented from appearing on two programmes in the past two months.' I knew quite well that Harold had stopped both of them. I said, 'Surely a senior Minister can cope with questions on Biafra or the mass media. If we make a mistake we just get fired.' I didn't get a lot of support but I am glad I said it because I think it will stop Harold from making these absurd complaints. He is obsessed with the mass media.'