More turmoil at No. 10, I hear. ‘Cameron’s power network is disintegrating,’ gloated an insider as news broke that two aides close to the cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood, are to leave. The pair worked together at the highest level. Paul Kirby (head of policy) would devise new administrative schemes and Kris Murrin (head of implementation) would make sure they didn’t work. In Macmillan’s day it would have been called laissez-faire government. No doubt the modern term is something like ‘hands-on multidimensionality’. In other words, paralysis.
While losses mount at the Guardian, the editor, Alan Rusbridger, has fallen in love. He keeps ordering the sub-editors to find space for articles about his new Fazioli piano. Cheeky responses have appeared on the website. ‘We always wondered how you filled your days and how you spent your fortune,’ wrote one indignant hack. ‘Now we know.’ Faziolis cost at least £50,000 and a friend at the Wigmore Hall tells me professionals won’t go near them. ‘They’re for loaded amateurs who think a pricy instrument will make up for clumsy fingerwork.’ Rusbridger recalls an early tryst with his new playmate: ‘When I came home one night, it was there — draped in a maroon cover with Fazioli embroidered in distinctive sans serif gold letters on the side. The cover came off and the lid went up, exposing a burst of colour — the deep red spruce soundboard from the Val di Fiemme and the golden walnut inlay around the inside of the case.’ If he gets the boot, there’s a job waiting for him at the Shopping Channel.
M’learned chums at Inner Temple tell me that a political superstar is to address the Gandhi Society later this year. Vince Cable will materialise among the barristers and pontificate on the career of the great Indian reformer. He won’t be stuck for parallels. Gandhi has the profile of a classic Lib Dem activist. He was a devout vegetarian who ate only mung beans, peanut butter and lemon juice. He was committed to fighting social inequality wherever he could find it. And he limited his wardrobe to loin-cloths made of pure Indian cotton and other self-woven casuals. In one sphere alone the Mahatma would part company with the modern Lib Dem movement — sex. In 1906, he announced a lifelong suspension of marital relations with his wife. Such a vow, as Nick ‘30-women-and-counting’ Clegg will confirm, would scarcely harmonise with present Lib Dem practice. I wonder if Mrs Cable is worried that Vince will commit himself to abstinence in honour of his hero. (Or perhaps she’s worried that he won’t.) Either way, she needn’t fear. We know about Lib Dems and their promises.
A cloud has lifted. A stain has been removed. Fleet Street’s older hands like to relate that in the early hours of 31 August 1997, a young night editor at the Sunday Times received news that Princess Diana had escaped unharmed from a car smash in Paris. Having dealt with the story, he toddled home and went to sleep. An hour later he was roused by a furious Rupert Murdoch, demanding to know how the Sunday Times was planning to break the biggest scoop in the history of royal reporting. The unfortunate hack, Martin Ivens, has now been made acting editor of the paper. So the blemish on his reputation turns out to have been entirely fictional. Either that, or Murdoch is mellowing.
A setback for the power-hungry energy minister John Hayes. The Chancellor ordered him to set up a drinks bash for the talented but semi-feral gang of Tory MPs who were elected in 2010. Mr Hayes passed the instruction to his PPS, who despatched a charming invite summoning the awkward squad to No. 11 for a soothing glass of punch. But owing to a mix-up, many of the invitations reached the talentless 2005 crop instead. The Chancellor is, of course, far too busy to spend time on these ultra-loyal halfwits, so he ordered fresh letters to be sent out cordially inviting them to go elsewhere.
It’s called a pre-shuffle. Tony Blair’s dethroned successor, David Miliband, is to speak next month at a public debate hosted by the euro-coddling think-tank Business for New Europe. Ads for the event described Labour’s sulky young grandee as ‘shadow foreign secretary’. Quick! Get down to the bookies.
The Royal Academy’s professor of drawing, Tracey Emin, predicts that cutting art lessons in schools will lead to more riots. What a high-minded conception of society. Those scamps who set light to our cities in August 2011 were just lobbying for better tuition in the techniques of Titian and Rembrandt. The next step is for Ms Emin to put in a few hours in the classroom herself, and teach draughtsmanship to the next generation of budding Ruskins. But first of all, her critics would say, she’ll have to learn to draw.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 26 January 2013