Diary

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Kaufman versus the peripatetic publicist

WAS it the greatest mistake of Gerald Kaufman's political career? William Shawcross's long-awaited biography of Rupert Murdoch, due from Chatto & Windus in September, tells an intriguing story of Murdoch's early political ambitions. As an Oxford undergraduate in 1952, the budding tycoon decided he'd like to stand for the post of secretary to the university's Labour Club. With characteristic brashness he set about campaigning for the post - his slogan was 'Rooting for Rupert'. But this was not the right form at all: the accepted Oxford practice then was to let your friends whisper in the right ears; outright canvassing was viewed as deeply vulgar. The Oxford newspaper Cherwell sneered at the upstart: 'Rupert Murdoch, cataclysmic chauffeur from the outback, prototype of Hollywood's peripatetic publicist, has plastered the town and peppered the noticeboards.' Gerald Kaufman, as chairman of the Labour Club, received complaints and formed a tribunal to investigate. It found that Murdoch had indeed set up a campaign team, and for that reason banned him from standing for office. Murdoch remains bitter: 'He (Kaufman) was the same then, a greasy know-all . . .' he told Shawcross. 'There was a kangaroo court. They said I had clearly been canvassing for votes. I was expelled for breaking the rules. Everyone canvassed for votes.' The rest is history.

A LETTER arrived at a west London address last week, stamped with a 20 July 1992 frank, a jolly snowman and the message - 'Happy Christmas. Please post early'. Alan Whelan, father of the recipient, has written to the chief postmaster at Paddington to ask, reasonably enough, how he can explain the significance of the postmark to a 13-year-old boy then still at school awaiting the advent of the summer holidays. Whelan hasn't had a reply.

Super-where? THERE was much confusion in Somerset yesterday, as Jeffrey Archer was gazetted Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare. Mark Bishop, manager of the Market House Inn in the town's High Street, thought, wrongly, that Archer was born in the town (and added, 'It's a load of rubbish. He's never come back or done anything for the town. I think the majority of Westonians would agree with me.') They're more loyal at the Lamb Inn, where the landlord, John Starling, polling on our behalf, reported: 'He's pretty popular in there (pause, sound of footsteps), and in there, too.' And a spokeswoman at the town council was beside herself with pleasure: 'Everyone is delighted. This really puts us on the map again - not, you understand, that we were ever off it. He does such a lot for the town. And he lives near by, too.' She needs a geography lesson: Archer lives in Grantchester, near Cambridge. Lady Archer went some way towards explaining things: 'We now live in Grantchester of course, but Jeffrey, who was, I think, born in London, grew up in Weston-super-Mare. His mother lives there and he has always regarded it as his home town. I think it would be fair to say he's extremely pleased.'

SO WHERE would that self-effacing sort, Mohamed al-Fayed, owner of the House of Fraser, like to be buried? In a pyramid erected on Harrods' roof, he tells Harpers & Queen.

Bit part revival IT'S ONE of the nostrums of the Mellordrama that whatever his achievements, the Secretary of State for National Heritage has undone about 300 years' work by female actors on distancing themselves from Nell Gwyn. The London nightclub the Limelight is celebrating its sixth anniversary with a 'masked extravaganza' party on Thursday. And we hear it has hired a number of women to mix with the crowd. When things appear to be going with less than a bang, they are under instructions to remove all their clothes. And who might these hussies be? 'Out-of-work actresses', apparently.

IF you catch Bill Clinton trying to make capital out of the name of his home town - Hope, Arkansas - simply point out to him the significance of Hope's neighbouring towns - Ashdown, Prescott and El Dorado.

A DAY LIKE THIS

29 July 1914 Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister, writes to Venetia Stanley during the crisis preceding the First World War: 'It is one of the ironies of the case that we, being the only Power who has made so much of the constructive suggestion in the direction of peace, are blamed by both Germany and Russia for causing the outbreak of war. Germany says: 'If you say you will be neutral, France and Russia wouldn't dare to fight'; and Russia says: 'If you will boldly declare you will side with us, Germany and Austria will at once draw in their horns.' Neither of course is true. We have just had a long Cabinet (it is now lunchtime) on the subject. On the whole it was a very satisfactory discussion: the acute point will arise if and when Germany proposes to invade France by way of Belgium - her shortest route.'

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