Diary: Some balm for Lib-Dem bruises

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The Independent Online
THERE MAY BE a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel of confusion in which the Liberal Democrats have trapped themselves over the Tower Hamlets affair. A black man, a former mayor, may be selected as their candidate for London East in the European parliamentary elections, scheduled for June next year.

If this does happen - and insiders are convinced that it will - then accusations of racism among the Tower Hamlets Lib-Dem councillors, who may have prepared the ground for the BNP victory in the local council election in September, may lose some of their credibility.

The Lib Dems themselves are unwilling to name the man, since, they say, it would be unfair on his rivals to promote him. 'He and a couple of others are going through various internal procedures to obtain party approval,' says a spokeswoman. 'If they pass those then they are eligible for the constituency election, scheduled for the end of January. Only then will the candidacy be decided.'

However, Andrew Duff, Paddy Ashdown's adviser on EU affairs, was slightly more forthcoming. 'This is a good opportunity for the party - which is feeling bruised - and I trust it will come off,' he told me yesterday. 'It is not just a domestic issue either - the European Parliament is predominantly white and in need of more black candidates.'

A COURT CASE against a defendant due to appear at Horseferry Road magistrates court in London has been dropped for the understandable reason that the man has died. But just to prove that the English legal system is still among the fairest in the world, the chief crown prosecutor involved in the case has written to the chief clerk with a proviso. According to Police magazine, his letter ends thus: 'I have notified the accused of this decision and of his right to have the proceedings revived.'

VOTES FOR LADIES

The Open Golf Championship would not be the same without the measured tones of Harry Carpenter, although they're not quite so measured, I gather, when it comes to discussing the rights of women players. Since 1893, lady members have been welcome to swing their clubs at Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club, where Mr Carpenter is a member - and Sir Denis Thatcher has played the odd round, and used the bar - but only on the understanding that club business and pleasure should never meet. Under no circumstances would ladies be allowed to vote. Three years ago, however, the ladies didn't exactly throw themselves under a golf buggy, but they did insist that the club should move with the times.

In the resulting show of hands to decide whether ladies could vote - and Mr Carpenter's hand was not, I'm told, thrusting skywards - the emancipation measure was rejected because it failed to achieve a two-thirds majority. Mr Carpenter, who becomes the club's president next April, went on to speak out against women becoming full members at the AGM earlier this year. Despite this, the ladies finally triumphed last month. One member said: 'I would be very surprised if Harry had voted in favour.'

Mr Carpenter can console himself with one of his other hobbies - playing the club fruit machines.

IN AN adventurous musical feat, the Royal Opera House is to perform all 28 of Verdi's operas between 1995 and 2001, ending with the Requiem sung by the choruses of all of Britain's opera companies. And to think that La Traviata was shunned by audiences when first performed.

THE FINAL DISCORD

After 15 years of counting their royalties, Seventies punk-rockers the Sex Pistols are temporarily back in action, albeit sans Sid Vicious. Steve Jones, now teetotal, and Paul Cook, two of the three surviving members, have teamed up to play guitar and drums on a tribute album to Johnny Thunders, the glam-rocker who died two years ago of a drugs overdose. The sound, I'm told, is not that of 'a great symphonic musical epic. It's more a gelling of extremes.'

A DAY LIKE THIS

21 December 1916 Alan Lascelles writes to a friend: 'I see Ribbesdale is bringing out his memoir of Charles (Lister) quite soon. I am very nervous about it. Against my instincts, I yielded up my letters. Old letters are an awful responsibility; one is torn between a horror of profanation, and a desire to let all the world know the greatness of our dead. To destroy them now is as impossible as to burn photographs; and to hoard them is selfish. Don't all the really great men give infinitely more to the unborn ages than their own generation? It's only the semi-great - the conquerors, the statesmen - who live for their contemporaries. What does their own generation matter to timeless people like Dante, Leonardo, Lister, Pasteur, Beethoven, Plato? And what are Napoleon, Caesar, Pitt, Charlemagne to us now, except mere names?'

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