Diary

Eagle Eye
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The Independent Online
Kiss and make up over divorce

Westminster watchers are eagerly anticipating a fruity conversation in the near future between the former Welsh Secretary John Redwood and the recently appointed minister in the Lord Chancellor's office, Jonathan Evans.

In his new role, Evans has been given the job of sweet-talking Redwood out of his rebellious opposition to the Lord Chancellor's divorce Bill. His task would not be easy even if the pair were friends - Redwood is as zealous about opposing the divorce Bill as he is about helping single mothers - but Evans and Redwood fell out two years ago and have yet to make up. Ugly scenes are expected.

The two had their first duel in 1994 over local government in Wales. (Evans's constituency is Brecon & Radnor). So passionately did Evans oppose Redwood's plans for a vast unitary local authority in Powys that he resigned his bag-carrying duties as PPS to one of the then-Northern Ireland ministers in protest. To Redwood's embarrassment, Evans, along with another MP, was crucial in voting out the Government's proposals.

Two years on, Evans is in government and Redwood isn't. An interesting reversal. Anyone overhearing this conversation might like to report on it to me. Such moments should be shared and not kept secret.

Virgin territory

Divorce may be the high moral battleground for politicians in Britain, but in Rome they are still preoccupied with an earlier phase of sexual development. There the Vatican is having a Virginity debate or, to give it its full title, "Virginity for the Kingdom: Vocation of Love".

It has fallen to one Cardinal Biffi to play the Lord Mackay-type role of controversial agitator. But after insisting that virginity should be supported and defended against Christians who have surrendered to the sinful ways of the modern world - "Virginity is not some kind of congenital dishonour from which young girls should be freed as soon as possible" - Cardinal Biffi appeared rather lukewarm in his endorsement of the sacramental institution.

"In the end, a man who marries renounces two and a half billion women minus one," he said, "whereas I have renounced two and a half billion." There was a pause, while various eminences scratched their pates. "The difference," continued the cardinal blithely, "is very small."

Bread and butter role

The Stage newspaper, bible of the British theatrical profession, could do with a few charm lessons. It has advertised this week for telesales staff with the rider: "This is a sales job, no luvvies please." And this from a paper with 35,000 luvvy readers and with an advertising department that until recently contained one reformed actor, Peter Howitt, formerly the star of the television soap Bread...

Long and short of it

So, as we are now at the great day of reckoning itself - the Scott report debate - it is time to answer the question that has really been confusing Fleet Street brains - just how many pages long is it? The actual page numbering extends to 1806 and last week the Daily Telegraph settled for this figure. The Independent and the Times saw more in it and went for a round 2,000 pages. The Guardian being the Guardian referred to a "200,000- page Report". I asked my pet statistician at the University of Neasden, who tells me that with index and appendices, it comprises 2,330 pages. If only Mr Major's difficulties were so easy to resolve.

No park and ride

Perhaps it is time for cycle rage. A lobbyist turns up at Westminster to see David Blunkett MP. In the name of environmental correctness he has travelled by bicycle. This, however, is to prove his undoing. As he chains his bike to the railings a PC stops him and tells him that he must park his bike in the NCP car park across the way. But when he gets to the car park he is told that the place is reserved for cars only. Someone, he begins to suspect, is trying to tell him something. On your bike?

Eagle Eye

I hope I die before I get old and crotchety

I fear there may be an unfortunate absentee from the glamorous showbiz first night of the new West End musical Tommy next month. I gather that Pete Townshend and The Who's erstwhile lead singer, Roger Daltrey, find it difficult to discuss the musical - as so much else - amicably.

Perhaps the lack of current harmony has something to do with the odd wording on the show publicity, which refers in legalistic terms to Tommy being "originally conceived by Pete Townshend, developed by Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert [former Who manager], with contributions to the development by John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Roger Daltrey".

Daltrey doesn't like what has been done to it. He tells me the stage show is too sanitised a version of the rock original. And this geriatric bickering from the outfit who famously hoped they'd die before they got old.

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