Diary: Lawson skids on the gravel

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MANY a senior politician has been accused of nimbyism (not in my back yard), the late Lord Ridley being the most notable example. The latest case comes from Northamptonshire, where the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson of Blaby, has taken issue with county council plans to dig a gravel quarry in a designated Special Landscape Area on his doorstep near Newnham.

It is not the first time that Lord Lawson has experienced difficulties with his country property. Two years ago, he had problems selling his Leicestershire home, owing to the recession and slump in the property market. Eventually it went for about pounds 239,000, approximately pounds 85,000 less than the original asking price, enabling him move to a pounds 500,000 house in Newnham, the 'territorial designate' of his recent peerage.

'The reason my wife and I decided to move to Newnham Lodge . . . was precisely because of the outstanding beauty of the Upper Nene Valley,' he told the council. 'I do not consider the unspoiled rolling countryside of the Upper Nene Valley exceptionally beautiful simply because I live there. It is the other way about.'

Yesterday Lord Lawson added that the other locals feel the same way and have formed campaign groups. 'I thought I would voice my opinion as well.' Pause. 'As one of them who was, at least, not too shy to speak in public.'

FOLLOWING my item about the government whip Irvine Patnick OBE being addressed as Mr Obe by a charity touting for funds, Mrs J McKenzie Foulds JP says she has twice been written to by a charity which started each letter: 'Dear Mrs JP'.

Out of Ambridge

Skip this if you're an Archers fan and don't want to know the next twist in the saga of Caroline Bone and the Rev Robin Stokes. Caroline, in hospital with serious head injuries after falling off her horse, has been told that Mark Hebden was killed after he swerved his car into a tree to avoid her unconscious body. Traumatised, she has decided to cancel the wedding, I'm told. It's not the only Ambridge wedding under threat. Lizzie Archer and Nigel Pargetter (the actor who plays him, Graham Seed, was a star actor at Charterhouse despite a stutter which rendered him helpless as a house monitor when reading roll call) were due to display their emerald and diamond engagement ring as a publicity exercise yesterday. Lizzie failed to show. A bright note from the real world to end on: the Archers producer Vanessa Whitburn, who has been for in hospital for two weeks following a serious car crash, is much better and left Birmingham General yesterday.

THE Big Issue's flamboyant editor, John Bird - who is married to Tessa Swithinbank, daughter of the strangely named Sir Robert Cornwallis Gerald St Leger Ricketts - has hatched another scheme to help the homeless. Those of the mag's vendors who cannot find work are now being paid the going factory rate for assembling poster boards from reject Portuguese wine corks.

Write cock-up

I tremble for Jennie Watt, Sir James Spicer's secretary at the House of Commons, whose typing, I'm assured, is normally immaculate, but who slipped up on one letter to a Dorset local government official. The normally benevolent MP for Dorset West was sounding forth on the subject of the Government's proposed reorganisation of local goverments in the shires, and ended thus: 'My aim is to have effective Government at the lowest possible common level and with the least amount of democracy.'

'Jennie]' thundered Sir James, when I informed him of the amusement his missive had caused, 'we appear to have made a mistake.' Switching on his dictaphone, he elaborated: 'We wrote

a letter to a Mr . . . in which you wrote 'democracy' instead of 'bureaucracy'. The Independent have seen it and are now saying that

I am a Communist and a member of the KGB]'


1 March 1829 Tom Moore writes in his diary about the illness of his daughter, Anastasia: 'Towards the end of the week she began to have accesses of extra weakness in the mornings, so much so as to make me think, each time, that her last moment was come; but she revived from them after taking some refreshment, and the strong cheerful tone of her voice on recovering from what had appeared to be death seemed wonderful, and even startling. Sunday, I rose early, and on approaching the room, heard the dear child's voice as strong, I thought, as usual; but, on entering, I saw death plainly in her face. When I asked her how she had slept, she said, 'Pretty well,' in her usual courteous manner; but her voice had a sort of hollow and distant softness not to be described. When I took her hand on leaving her, she said (I thought significantly), 'Good-bye, Papa.' I will not attempt to tell what I felt at all this.'