Diary: Ten minutes of valuable time

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The Independent Online
SIR NORMAN FOWLER's assertion that donations to the Conservative Party could not buy influence or honours has failed to take the steam out of the Asil Nadir controversy.

As part of his duties in September 1990, Kenneth Baker, one of Sir Norman's predecessors as party chairman, spoke to Mr Nadir. In the light of Sir Norman's remarks, the subject of the conversation is illuminating.

Mr Baker tells me: 'We met for 10 minutes because he was concerned about the unpopularity of the Government. He wanted us to improve the presentation of the poll tax.' Would Mr Nadir have been given a second of Mr Baker's time on this subject, completely unconnected with his Polly Peck company, if he had not handed over at least some of his pounds 440,000 donation?

ITV's GMTV programme yesterday included a report on the serial killer of homosexuals, followed by an interview about the case with Michael Cashman, the actor and gay rights activist.

Shortly afterwards, the station screened a trailer promoting a new sitcom, featuring a woman sprinkling a man with breakfast cereal to the words: 'I'm a cereal killer.'

An 'unfortunate' juxtaposition, according to GMTV. 'With live programming, these things happen. It was insensitive and the trailer was dropped from the rest of the programme.'

ALL GUMMED UP

Since the abolition of the Greater London Council, it is difficult to recall any (sensible) strategic planning for London. But the evangelical John Gummer is anxious to fill the void.

So far, he hasn't impressed, apparently expecting the readers of the Evening Standard to do his thinking for him. 'If you are proud about something in London and yet know how it can be improved - why not write and tell me?' he artfully wrote in that paper last week.

There are many issues the new Environment Secretary needs to tackle. The waitress in Preston who asked my brother the other day whether London was 'the place where they have that rush-hour?' encapsulated a typical view of London from outside the capital, and Mr Gummer, I suggest, should give it some attention.

At least he is trying, unlike his predecessor Michael Howard, who chaired a cabinet committee on London, but devoted little attention to it.

Mr Gummer, in contrast, is making this committee a priority, and has drawn up a policy document, I gather, that at least diagnoses some of the persistent problems. These include the scruffiness of Oxford Street and the threat to the fabric of theatreland caused by projected transport developments.

I don't know Gummer's views on the state of London traffic, although he may outline them in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry today.

I have never been to Preston, so I don't know what its rush-hour is like. Mr Gummer could do worse, however, than ring my brother's waitress and ask for her views.

THE LEFT-WING reputation of London's Holland Park Comprehensive is not, I fear, what it used to be, judging by children's reaction to a consciousness-raising effort at the school gates this week.

Asked by gay rights campaigners what they would do if a friend said he was gay, typical answers included: 'Kick his head in', 'Send him to a psychiatrist' and 'Call the police'. Denounced as battymen and poofters, the OutRage leafleteers beat a humiliating retreat amid a volley of bottles, sticks and soft drinks cans.

A LA CARTE PUNCH-UP

More unseemliness, this time at Quaglino's, the London restaurant named after the Duke of Windsor's favourite haunt in the Thirties (he entertained a succession of mistresses there).

On Wednesday night, a colleague watched with awe as a brawl broke out in the bar. 'Suddenly all this glass started flying about,' she told me. 'There was shouting, screaming and staff were trying to separate various people. Eventually a man with a blood-stained towel around his neck was led away.

'Maureen Lipman, the actress, rushed over to us and asked 'What's happening? What's happening?' '

We may never know. A bashful Quaglino's person told me: 'I am afraid nobody will be passing comment on the incident last night.'

A DAY LIKE THIS

18 June 1887 Sophia Tolstoy writes in her diary: 'Many people blame me for not writing my diary and memoirs, since Fate has put me in touch with such a famous man. But it is so hard to break away from my personal attitude towards him, to be quite impartial, and most of all, to find any time to do it; I am so terribly busy, and it's been the same all my life. I thought I would be free enough this summer to copy and sort out some of Lev Nikolayevich's manuscripts. But I've been here a whole month now, and have had to spend all this time copying 'On Love and Death' on which he has worked for such a long time. No sooner am I finished copying it than he changes it all, and I have to copy it all over again. His patience and determination are endless.'

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