Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (19/09/10)

Sunday 19 September 2010 00:00

Is the Putin administration secretly funding the Tory party? I only ask because of an intriguing donation that has popped up on the Electoral Commission's register of interests, from a mysterious Russian hedge fund. In March this year, £10,000 was donated by Xenon Capital Partners, a Moscow-based fund created apparently for the sole purpose of advising Russian state-owned companies in the energy industry, which also manages a $2bn state-owned power utilities fund. Of course, it's all above board, as the company is also registered to an address in London, and British companies are allowed to donate as much as they like to political parties. Still, makes you wonder.

Rupert Murdoch's biographer Michael Wolff has got what George Bush would call "cojones", having fearlessly revealed his subject in a fascinating book last year. But I can reveal he has a bit of a man crush on one of our finest British actors, Bill Nighy, pictured, whom he spotted having lunch in a west London restaurant recently. My man with the breadbasket tells me that as Nighy was preparing to leave, Wolff scraped over to declare his admiration and managed to mumble something about him being "the greatest British actor alive". He even told Nighy he would be his chosen actor to play Murdoch in a biopic, an idea that clearly tickled Nighy's fancy. Here's hoping.

A frequent complaint about London's Boris bikes is their unashamedly corporate livery: they're all emblazoned with the logo for Barclays Bank. Now one anti-capitalist protester has launched a guerrilla campaign by creating a sticker of a familiar Anglo-Saxon word in the same size and font, which he is sticking on all bikes above the word Barclays. "When Barclays pay for advertising, they're paying for us to think about them – but our thoughts shouldn't be for sale," he told the diary when we tracked him down to his urban hideout. "Why should people pay money for the privilege of degrading themselves to the status of billboards on wheels for a bank that invests billions in the arms trade and has more shares than anyone else in Exxon?" I think we'll tiptoe away from this one.

Fans of Tony Blair peeved at not getting a copy of his book autographed, after he cried off the signing at Waterstones in London, can console themselves with a signed edition of the audiobook instead. Frances Goldberg, the enterprising owner of The Audiobook Store in Baker Street, who walks past Blair's Connaught Square home every day, wrote to Tony asking if he'd sign a job lot for her if she dropped them round. Happy to support his local bookshop, Tony duly obliged and they have sold so well she has just dropped off some more. He's all heart.

Boris Johnson has never been squeamish about his association with Eton, so what kept him from attending a reunion this weekend? Douglas Hurd, Michael Beloff, Ferdinand Mount and Robin Lane Fox were among the big names attending the first reunion of past editors of the Eton Chronicle, the school magazine, last night, organised by Economist journalist Xan Smiley. After Boris gave up the Chronicle, he recommended his friend Charles Spencer to succeed him, the first of many generous appointments of his career.

Jeffrey Archer is a considerably richer man this weekend, having signed a deal to sell the film rights of an astonishing 10 of his books. He declines to say how much the deal is worth when I call, but industry experts are estimating he would have netted between £1m and £3m per book. The rights have been bought by Canadian businessman Jeffrey Steiner, a friend of Archer since the 1980s, who has no experience in the film industry. He has set up a business modelled on that of Albert Broccoli, owner of the 007 franchise, and hopes to emulate its success.

Alarming news from last week's annual conference of the World Nuclear Association. During a talk by boffin Martin Young, he recalled how nuclear power went out of fashion after accidents at "Nine Mile Island" in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986. As we recall, the 1979 disaster was at Three Mile Island. Has it mutated?

Friends of the late Isabella Blow are accusing Detmar, her widower, of cashing in while the funeral meats are still warm, by publishing his memoir Blow by Blow. Google the title and you're directed to an eye-opening website giving tips on how to perform what newspapers call "a sex act". As someone who would cheerfully explain how her "combine harvester" teeth caused her problems in that department, we don't think she'd mind.

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