Diary

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Clark diaries are a write-off in US

WITH extracts like 'hips and a bust which are almost too noticeable', or 'she was not wearing a bra, and her delightful globes bounced prominently', Alan Clark could not have expected his diaries to be clasped to the breast of every politically correct American, and indeed they haven't. With the British edition going into its fifth reprint, the American agents for the book have touted it around a number of publishers, and have yet to receive a bite.

Far from descending into a slump over the book's failure across the Atlantic, Clark himself is typically relaxed about what he considers to be the ultimate compliment. 'It's news to me but I don't mind,' he drawled. 'I'm not involved in the marketing of the book, and the money doesn't mean anything to me anyway.' However his agents and publishers are not so sanguine. Michael Sissons, at the British agency Peters Fraser & Dunlop, declined to discuss it, while a spokeswoman at the New York agency Sterling Lord Literistic would only confirm that no publisher had been lined up. 'Blame political correctness,' said Clark's editor at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Ion Trewin.

DISREGARD, if you will, my suggestion in yesterday's Diary that Peter Thurnham MP might have lost votes because of comments he made to me about his constituents in Bolton North East. He made some jocular remarks following the theft of a speech he had prepared for yesterday's Loyal Address - the speech was later found - and I in turn suggested that the school, whose prize-giving he was attending at the time of the theft, would not ask him back in a hurry. On the contrary, the headmistress of Withins School, I'm glad to point out, is looking forward to welcoming the MP again on 2 December.

Spotlight on Shirley IN THE next few weeks, Dame Shirley Porter will be back under the political spotlight with the long-awaited publication of the district auditor's report into alleged gerrymandering on Westminster City Council. The district auditor is investigating allegations that Conservatives on the council, which was led by Dame Shirley, sold council homes to potentially sympathetic voters in key marginal wards before the 1990 local elections. Exact details of the inquiry are not known. However I gather lawyers acting for Dame Shirley approached Coopers & Lybrand with a view to challenging the district auditor's figures for the cost of selling the homes. Not interested. As Dame Shirley must have known from her local government days, Coopers & Lybrand acts as auditor for other councils, and could hardly give advice that might differ from the district auditor. Alternative advisers, I'm told, have now been found. CHRISTMAS shopping is likely to be high on the agenda of the Irish prime minister, Albert Reynolds, this weekend when he visits London, ostensibly to appear on Breakfast with Frost on Sunday morning. I gather he is particularly fond of the pastime - a colleague spied him in Selfridges when he was in London to discuss the devaluation of the punt with John Major. At Christmas, however, he may feel the need to expand his store selection to suit the tastes of the various members of his immediate family, not necessarily an easy task - he is blessed with a wife and seven children.

Yesterday's man? JOHN MAJOR is looking 'back to basics' at the moment. Hence, no doubt, yesterday's rendition by the Grenadier Guards of the Beatles classic 'Yesterday' as the Queen started her speech. 'Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it seems as though they're here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday. Why she had to go, I don't know . . .'

A DAY LIKE THIS

19 November 1936 Chips Channon describes in his diary a dinner party he gave for Edward VIII: 'Honor (Channon) got on famously with the King, who ate a lot, drank claret and laughed much. Tiaras nodded, diamonds sparkled, the service was excellent, conversation flowed, and I thought of Sachie Sitwell's description of a supper party at Louvencienne chez Madame du Barry. Would ours be as ill-fated? The ladies rose, each one curtseying to the King as they left the dining-room. The King called to me: 'Sit on my left, Chips. Come next to me, Paul (Prince Paul of Yugoslavia).' We thus had a three-handed conversation - two reigning sovereigns and Chips. The King was jolly, gay and full of cracks. He returned only tonight from the distressed areas in Wales and must have felt as elated as I do after two or three days in my constituency. (Later) I sometimes wonder why I keep a diary at all. Is it to relieve my feelings? Console my old age? Or to dazzle my descendants?'

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