Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (22/01/12)


Matthew Bell
Sunday 22 January 2012 01:00

The V&A enjoyed a brief flurry of publicity on Thursday, when new director Martin Roth lamented that nobody (except security guards) wears ties any more.

But just think how much attention the museum would get had trustees appointed Evelyn Welch to the top job: she is the mother of chart-topping singer Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine. For I can reveal that Professor Welch was one of three candidates shortlisted for the plum role, but narrowly missed out at the last minute. Welch is a leading art historian and professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary College, University of London, and can claim to have inspired her daughter with her lectures. "I aspire to something like that but with music," Florence once told Q magazine. Some insiders are puzzled that the V&A chose Roth, a bearded German, over Welch, when the museum has had only one woman director in its 160-year history. It flourished under Sir Roy Strong, and could benefit from another colourful figurehead. The final decision was made by David Cameron, who usually says he wants more women at the top.


Tony Blair said he would donate the proceeds from his memoirs to the British Legion, but some people are wondering if he ever did. Edward Enfield, father of comedian Harry, says he has written to the charity on three occasions to ask if they have received the money, and has yet to receive a reply. But they must be reading his letters, as on the third occasion, he asked to be taken off their mailing list if they wouldn't tell him, and sure enough, he's been removed. In August 2010, the ex-prime minister announced he would give away the £4m advance and all subsequent royalties for A Journey. But the most recent accounts available for the British Legion make no mention of his gift. A spokesman for the charity says they don't comment on individual donations, but adds tersely: "The original agreement has been honoured." Well, why not just say so?


Money-saving expert Martin Lewis tells me has abandoned his ambitions to become an MP, saying he would "rather have his nipples electrocuted" than enter Parliament. The 39-year-old personal finance guru, whose website has helped people to save thousands of pounds and made him a small fortune along the way, had planned to become an MP by the time he ended his thirties. At university, he was a paid-up Liberal Democrat and president of the student union. But now he tells me that life on the benches is not for him. "I will never, ever do it," he says. "I can guarantee that – I'm not doing a Michael Heseltine. Why the hell would anyone want to do it these days? It's a hideous, adversarial system." However, Manchester-born Lewis, who is a regular on Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 lunchtime show, is involved in policy, and advises members of all parties. "My own politics have always been left of centre, but it's important that I avoid party politics now." A pity – we could do with someone like him in charge.


David Cameron's favourite watering hole has received the thumbs down from a leading critic, who said yesterday he had "one of the worst dinners I've had in ages" there. The Feathers Hotel in Woodstock has long played host to the Chipping Norton set; the former EastEnders actor Ross Kemp used to seek refuge there over a pint, when he was married to Rebekah Wade (now Brooks), and the Prime Minister, who is the town's MP, took his mother Mary to celebrate her birthday there. But the Daily Mail's anonymous hotel reviewer gave it a devastating assessment in the "An Inspector Calls" column, saying "there's hardly a redeeming feature". Not a veiled attack on the PM, we trust.


As discussed elsewhere in the paper, The Daily Telegraph has been left red-faced by an apology to Chris Huhne after wrongly claiming he had leaked a letter to journalists about the possibility of there being a new royal yacht. Unusually, the apology singles out one writer in particular, columnist and novelist Cristina Odone: "We particularly regret the offence caused by Cristina Odone's article." Odone herself, however, seems in no rush to grovel. On Twitter, she has locked horns with Stephen Tall, co-editor of weblog Lib Dem Voice, and in another exchange, she says, archly: "I've got loads of faults but betraying my colleagues is not one of them." Though this was posted before the apology, she is in no hurry to take it down.

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