Diary

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Beeb turns off its own correspondent

MISHA GLENNY, the intrepid Eastern Europe correspondent for the BBC, whose gravelly voice told of the collapse of the Communist states - he also managed to get beaten up and arrested by the Czech police - is to be heard no longer. His four- year contract expires at the end of this year and the BBC, it is said, has made no move to renew it. Thus Glenny, 34, is taking himself off to a hideaway in northern Greece to follow up his well-received account of the Yugoslav conflict with a history - Unity of Death - on the 'sacred curse' of Balkan nationalism from 1848 to today. It will be published by Viking. Glenny was discreet as anything when we spoke to him in Vienna yesterday, but senior colleagues give an account of long-standing and worrying troubles between the BBC and Glenny who, though astonishingly prolific, is 'not a Corporation person'. This is said with approval. Many such journalists share worries about the Corporation's carelessness for its foreign correspondents, particularly in the current push for 'bi-mediality' - where the same journalists will do both radio and television. 'That's all right doing a story in Oxford,' says one, 'but going into war zones, doing pictures and sound- track while dodging bullets and dealing with a traumatised population in another language, is a very different thing. And it's having a direct impact on editorial standards - radio just becomes second-rate in the race to get pictures out.' Journalists are, of course, habitually critical of their managements, but a propos Glenny's problems they are vitriolic. 'The BBC structure is sclerotic,' says one, spitting.

THE LATEST piece of productivity-improving, hi-tech kit on London's Underground? A whistle. Under the 'New Silver Whistle Test' initiative, a man will be stationed on Northern Line platforms blowing fiercely to prevent passengers nipping through closing train doors. Next month: cattle prods.

Greek tragedy

ANTONIA de Sancha's theatrical career has had a hiccup. Her old mates at Aquila Productions have announced 'no plans to work with her in the future'. De Sancha has countered by saying the break was 'her own decision'. All this is bad news for the Harlequin Theatre, Redhill, Surrey, which was expecting de Sancha as Athena, the goddess of wisdom, in Aquila's November production of Sophocles's Ajax. The play is aimed at schoolchildren and de Sancha, says Aquila, was judged unsuitable 'because of the second avalanche of publicity in the tabloids'. Which is a novel attitude for a show-business organisation, and a tragedy for those who appreciated de Sancha as the husband-killer Clytemnestra in Aquila's production of Aeschylus's Agamemnon last year. Most memorable line? 'I must prepare the best welcome any man can have.'

NOT BUSY tonight? Do make your way to Rodin's Wine Bar in the basment of the Millbank building adjacent to the Palace of Westminster, where you'll find the 'secret' Carlton Group of anti-Maastrichtian Tory MPs (usual suspects: the Wintertons, Nicholas Budgen, Michael Spicer et al) dining and plotting. Secret they won't be - Channel 4 and the BBC have offices in the building. So what's the group's new name? Rodin's Leakers?

Party to a marriage

AT THE House of Commons yesterday, hailing Acts of Defiance, the autobiography of Lord Ashley of Stoke, Lord Howe fondly remembered the fiery Ashley of Cambridge in the early Fifties. As president of the Cambridge Union, he threatened 'never to speak to another bloody Tory again as long as I live' after Howe, then chairman of the Conservative Association, accused him of some skullduggery or other. But Lord Howe noted that Ashley soon fell for Pauline Crispin, a beautiful Girton undergraduate, who was, said Howe, a paid-up member of the Conservative Party, a conservative columnist on Varsity and a Conservative college representative. 'Far from never speaking to another Tory,' Lord Howe said, 'he married one.' Up to a point, Lord Howe. Lady Ashley tells us that, while she was a member of the University Conservative Association, she was also in the University Labour Club. In those days, 'one went to all the things . . . after I met (Jack) I spent more time with the Labour party'.

A DAY LIKE THIS

23 September 1839 Lord Shaftesbury writes of a visit to the Blind School in Glasgow: 'It is beautiful and consolatory to behold the peace of mind that these poor creatures enjoy through the instrumentality of these inventions; they are now become capable of every mental and physical gratification; many can exercise various trades and callings, and, instead of being a clog, prove an assistance to their families. I could hardly refrain from tears when I saw their easy and happy acquaintance with the art of reading Scripture, and heard the pleasure they took in the pursuit. Blindness is, next to insanity, the heaviest of God's visitations; bears with it something of mystery inasmuch as God has ever reserved to Himself personally, as it were, the power of restoring the eyesight. No mere man has been permitted to wield the power.'

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