NOW THAT Douglas Hurd has agreed to see the Dalai Lama without the usual religious chaperone (to avoid upsetting China, John Major insisted the Archbishop of Canterbury was present when he met the Dalai Lama in 1991, so emphasising the spiritual nature of the occasion) the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet is for the first time making headway in his attempt to stir Britain's conscience about his troubled country.
Tibet came under Chinese rule in 1950: since then, the Tibetans have become a minority in their own land, their forests have been destroyed, nuclear weapons have been installed, and so on.
The fresh surge of concern is not evident everywhere, however. Yesterday, the BBC's Woman's Hour broke the spirit of an understanding with Koo Stark, who was there to talk about Tibet, that she would not be asked any question alluding to her Royal romance. Stark has organised a photographic exhibition to raise pounds 50,000 to build a meditation centre in southern India, where Westerners would learn from Tibetan monks and nuns and reciprocate with donations. The presenter, Jenni Murray, interrupted her guest as she read out a telephone number for those wanting to buy tickets (071-630 9318), leaving Stark depressed, again, about the media's priorities.
The BBC, I fear, has misjudged its audience (not for the first time recently: for example, the Rough Justice IRA programme after Warrington). Lord Ennals, the former Labour cabinet minister and a good friend of the Dalai Lama - he gave him a bear-hug again this week, and recalls travelling with him in a taxi, hand-in-hand - is a staunch supporter (as are John Cleese and Joanna Lumley). Ennals, who is president of the Tibet Society (membership 800), one of several groups aiming to increase awareness about Tibet, is certain that the Dalai Lama's current visit will attract even more support. The society's chairman, Bill Peters, a former ambassador, is also encouraged: he has been an admirer of Tibet since the Burma campaign, when, commanding Gurkha soldiers in the jungle, he came across two Tibetans who had infiltrated his force. 'Technically I should have got rid of them because they were not from Nepal (a Gurkha requirement) but I didn't. One of the better decisions I made.'
ASIL NADIR may be enjoying his new life in Cyprus, but he will have to do so without his watch. The night before the Polly Peck founder skipped the country, the Diary received a tip that Nadir's house had been raided. I have now established more details. The raid, under warrant, was carried out five weeks ago - while Nadir was presumably putting the final touches to his escape plan - by Dibb Lupton and Broomhead, a firm of solicitors administering the bankruptcy, which suspected Nadir of not declaring all his assets. A source close to the raid told me: 'Among items taken was a Swiss watch, quite a nice one.' It won't go far towards Ramadan Guney's pounds 1m surety, but it's a start.
A NEW actor around town is Alexander Armstrong, 22, a Cambridge graduate who learnt his trade in fringe theatre and the Virgin Islands where he did a two-man show. Now, I gather, he is destined for greater things. 'He may do some small parts in the new series of Anna Lee,' I was told. Oh really, I thought. Isn't that the programme with Imogen Stubbs, and isn't she rather choosy about who plays alongside her? No problem, I discovered. Armstrong and Stubbs are cousins.
WITH the Matrix Churchill inquiry under way, what are we to make of this parliamentary written exchange between the Labour MP Martin Redmond and Sir John Cope, the Paymaster-General? Redmond wanted to know why a package sent by Federal Express from the United States to Paul Henderson, the former managing director of Matrix Churchill, had been inspected by Customs. (Henderson, of course, was one of the defendants in an Old Bailey case brought to court, disastrously, by the very same people.) Sir John explained thus: '. . . Customs and Excise regularly examine a proportion of imported packages to check for undeclared goods and to protect society from the importation of items which are prohibited or restricted.'
A DAY LIKE THIS
7 May, 1968 MAVIS GALLANT in Paris writes in her diary: 'Dined with the Bs, Quai Saint-Michel. No one takes a car now - not safe to park in the area. Students are marching all over Paris: 'Liberez nos camarades]' From the Bs' living room you see Seine, sunset, expanse of quais, very few cars, scarcely any traffic, many police. Christine (fifteen) says, 'But it is my duty to be out there with the students.' Nothing doing. However I notice she doesn't eat her dinner with us. Has it by herself in the kitchen. Almost seems like the heart of the matter - not with the adults, not with the kids. In Metro, I find that I have tears in my eyes. Astonished. Think: I must be tired - working too much? See everyone is dabbing and sniffing. It is tear gas that has seeped down. By Saint-Placide it is almost unbearable, prickling under the lids, but so funny to see us all weeping that I laugh.'