Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (24/10/10)

Last quango standing

Sunday 23 October 2011 01:13

His last motoring scrape cost him his licence; so how will the authorities look upon Fatty "Nicholas" Soames's latest mishap? The family-sized MP for Mid Sussex was driving his estate car out of the Houses of Commons on Thursday when – crump – what was that rolling on to the bonnet? Only a passing pedestrian, who, in his haste, hadn't spotted Soames hoving on to the horizon. Fortunately, he was uninjured. An eye witness tells me Bunter, as Soames is affectionately known, looked shaken and rather cross. Only two years ago, he was pictured driving a quad bike on public roads during a New Year's Day hunt, various children clinging on behind. As he wasn't insured, he was given a fine and a two-month driving ban. Time to start using a Boris bike?

A poignant week for Mary Cameron, the Prime Minister's mother: Wednesday was her first wedding anniversary since the death of Ian Cameron last month. But her devoted son Dave, despite his workload, made time to celebrate his mother's birthday on Friday, taking her for lunch at the Feathers Hotel in Woodstock, the smartest of the Oxfordshire towns in his constituency. Joined by his wife, children and sister, Dave knocked back a pint of local ale before a quiet family lunch. I'm happy to report he did not avail himself of the Feathers' new gin bar, thought to be the only one to have opened since Hogarth's day.

One is the most traditional Roman Catholic church in London; the other is home to the happy-clappy Alpha Course. But the neighbouring churches of Brompton Oratory and Holy Trinity Brompton have so far managed to remain pally. Until now. A planning application by HTB to build a block of flats to house 13 of their married clergy has met with shrieks of horror from priests at the Oratory, who say it will loom over their garden, spoiling its meditative aura. A letter handed out to the congregation last Sunday urged them to write to the council and object. Happily, it seems the protest has worked, as HTB has withdrawn the application. "This isn't the end, though," mutters my man in the vestry. "They'll be back with a revised application soon." Here's praying for peace this Christmas.

Animal Aid is a charity that doesn't think much of upper-crust pursuits, such as hunting and racing. But when it comes to legal matters, they have availed themselves of the services of Withers of the Old Bailey, one of the smarter law firms in London. Reports reach me from the West Country of mail on Withers headed paper on behalf of the charity, threatening legal action. Withers's portfolio numbers the Duke of Marlborough, a hunting enthusiast, and Ascot racecourse. We don't expect lawyers to be fettered by tradition, but at least some of their clients might like to know.

Is John Humphrys getting sloppy? On Wednesday's Today programme he introduced the BBC's economics editor, Stephanie Flanders, as Stephen. Then, yesterday he referred to WikiLeaks as Wikiledia. Ten minutes later, he was reading an article from The Times and referred to "peasants and phartridges," to James Naughtie's delight. To be fair, he was reading what The Times had printed, but failed to spot it was quoting a joke of James Joyce's.

Former Wiltshire councillor Keith Robinson was on Radio 4's The World This Weekend last week, pontificating about how councils should manage what little money they have left after Wednesday's cuts. What he didn't discuss was how he walked away from Wiltshire Council with a £484,000 redundancy package earlier this year, or how he now works for the consultancy firm, Charteris. Charteris was the firm chosen to advise Wiltshire County Council when Robinson was chief executive, steering its merger with four district councils to create Wiltshire Council. Meanwhile, how is the council performing? Well, the 8.40am bus from Swindon apparently reaches Marlborough at 8.12am. Impressive.

Wayne Rooney's new contract, reckoned to be between £180,000 and £250,000 a week, is put into perspective by a new biography of legendary footballer Tommy Lawton. It records how, after Lawton's first match at Wembley, in which he scored two of England's three goals in heavy snow, the FA treasurer challenged his expenses claim for the train fare from Aldershot. "Why have you claimed twelve and sixpence?", he thundered – the fare was seven shillings and fourpence. "Well, there's five bob for food," said Lawton. "That's still only twelve and fourpence – what about the tuppence?" "I'll tell you what happened to the tuppence," Lawton retorted. "I was taken short twice on my way here. And it's a penny a go!"

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