Diary: Diane's appetite for losing

High Street Ken
Wednesday 12 January 2011 01:00 GMT

While former future Labour leader Miliband (D) seems destined to grace a television screen near you in the not-too-distant future, I'm glad to note that his fellow leadership loser Diane Abbott – apparently still the honourable member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington – has also lost none of her appetite for the spotlight.

This week Diane is serving tinned akee to a disappointed Terry Christian as the first sitting MP to contest Channel 4's optimistically entitled Celebrity Come Dine With Me. Despite joining flamboyant ballet dancer Wayne Sleep in last place (she's used to that), Ms Abbott trousered a cool £3,000 for her trouble – almost enough for the cab ride home to her constituency. As she plies glamour model Danielle Lloyd with booze (in the best traditions of erstwhile celebrity diner Lembit Opik), Diane explains: "I'm a politician really [as if she had her doubts], which is quite boring." If you feel that way about it, Diane, why not try another line of work? I hear there's still an opening on the next series of Famous and Fearless.

* Jill Kirby, the redoubtable director of the Centre for Policy Studies, tells me she's leaving her post after almost four years. So far, though, she won't say where she's going. Kirby has maintained a low profile while putting the Thatcherite think-tank back on the map in the Cameron era. But having previously advised George (né Gideon) Osborne on developing a fairer tax system, she'd be a star signing for the Government, should she choose to join Number 10 – or Number 11. Formerly chair of the CPS's family and welfare policy group, Kirby is exceptionally well-versed on Iain Duncan Smith's poverty and social security agenda. I'm also assured she'd make a formidable Newsnight guest: "the acceptable face of Tory womanhood", no less. Hard luck, Theresa.

* Last week I reported that Christie's New York sale of artworks belonging to the late Dennis Hopper included a portrait of the actor by British artist Johnny Yeo – one of only three artists granted permission to paint Hopper (the others being Julian Schnabel and Andy Warhol). Over the weekend, however, Hopper's estranged wife, Victoria, was granted a restraining order preventing 32 of the 288 lots from being sold, on the basis that they were "purchased by the couple together" during their marriage. Among those 32 works is the aforementioned portrait.

Nevertheless, a second piece by Yeo – a montage of falling leaves made from pornographic magazine clippings – remained in the auction. And, according to its creator, there's no question that Hopper acquired it personally. "The Lazarides Gallery were having a mad party, with midget waiters and the like, during Frieze Week a few years ago," Yeo recalls. "And they had a ten-pin bowling lane, with pins made out of crockery. You had one go at bowling, and if you knocked them all down you could pick a free work of art. Dennis was one of the few to knock down all 10, and he chose my piece."

* Some softie southern Labour MPs were sent to campaign in Old & Sad this week, and found the country north of Watford more inhospitable than they'd imagined even in their worst nightmares.

Dropped off in some barren brownfields close to the middle of nowhere with the intention of drumming up support, I'm told the only reaction they managed to elicit was a brief attack from a furious dog. After retiring to a local boozer to dust themselves down and, they hoped, to bond with some lifelong Labour voters, their canvassing came to an abrupt halt when it became clear they'd barged in on a wake.

* Filthy rich Gerald Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster, finds himself the subject of an undignified spat after the Rev Roderick Leece, rector of St George's Church, Mayfair, took to the pulpit to complain that the Grosvenor estate had failed to contribute to the 18th-century church's ongoing restoration. Despite the estate's support for many charitable causes, and its proximity to St George's, Grosvenor's director, Jane Sandars, told Estates Gazette that it was "unable" to support the church appeal. The Duke is one of the wealthiest men in the country. What else is His Grace planning to splash all that cash on?


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