Last week, as news broke that Michael Gove stepped over the threshold of Boris Johnson’s house to have a private dinner, Dominic Cummings would have been purring. The Vote Leave campaign, of which Cummings is director, needed as many senior Tories as he could muster to break with their pack and follow their Euroscepticism for him to pull off his audacious coup of winning an Out vote in the referendum. Boris was the prize.
A tilt at becoming Mayor of the greatest city in the world? You could see where the ambition came from. The Women's Equality Party offices are far from glamorous — a grimy hallway, grey carpets, and in need of a lick of paint. But walk out of the door and look across the More London Riverside development and there is City Hall, glistening in some rare winter sun. Why not aim for the building once dubbed by former mayor Ken Livingstone as “the glass testicle”?
Why not run for Mayor, says Sophie Walker, a former Reuters journalist and their Mayoral candidate. “Let’s make London the first city in the world where men and women are equal.”
Mary Beard’s informality has disarmed me since we first met at a party at her publisher’s office in Clerkenwell four years ago, when we ended up sitting on a communal staircase, chatting like a couple of students. Since then, she has answered all manner of journalistic questions from me, silly and serious, with either a rapid-fire thought-provoking response or, over the past year or so, something more like “bugger off, I’m finishing my book”. Now SPQR, her history of ancient Rome, is done and, one Friday afternoon in late September, I’m invited over for tea in the kitchen to talk about it. With a conspiratorial look, she promises me a glass of wine when the “tutorial” is over.
As David Cameron prepares to address his party at the Conservative conference tomorrow an inconvenient new book will arrive on the stands in Manchester. It is not Call Me Dave, Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott’s scurrilous biography of the Prime Minister - that arrived yesterday. It is volume two of Charles Moore’s authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher (the first was published on St George’s Day, just after her death two years ago) and anyone seen carrying a copy of it can expect a good rollicking from the Leftie protesters camped outside the conference.
“Shows are an inevitable hazard of being an artist,” says Maggi Hambling, pulling a 10 pack of Marlboro Menthols out of her pocket, for her second cigarette of our conversation. “You don’t ever get used to it. It is one thing to be in a studio, but then the piece of work comes out and has to look after itself. You can’t defend it like a mother tiger. It is out there. Some people love it, some people hate it, some people are indifferent.”
Rupert Everett is sitting in Little Italy restaurant in Soho, at what seems to be a regular table, when I join him for morning coffee and a trip back to 1984. Margaret Thatcher, after victory in the Falklands, was in her second term as Prime Minister, a young David Cameron was donning his tails daily at Eton, the old British class system was on its final march around the quad and Another Country arrived in the cinemas.
Exhibit 1 from the shortlist of this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction awards: “He steps into her, furious. And when it hits her, it slams her hard and fast, as life once had.”
Not hard and fast enough? Another novel shortlisted for Literary Review’s annual award for excruciating sex scenes in literature contains these delightful lines: “She comes and comes, waves of hot silk—I grit my teeth and push her off. I bend her over and really give it to her.”
The week began badly when, on Monday, the Polish magazine Wprost released secretly recorded tapes, on them the Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski's linguistically florid appraisal of Cameron's Europe policies. "It's either a very badly thought-through move, or, not for the first time, a kind of incompetence in European affairs," he began politely. And then, "remember? He f**ked up the fiscal pact [of 2011]. He f**ked it up."
On a June evening last summer I was sitting at the kitchen table, surveying all that I had built up: a sweet house in Shepherd’s Bush, a steady job, a VW parked outside, and evenings out at the promising new gastropub. But that night, thinking over all the promises this life had never delivered, I decided it was time for a change. I would ditch the idealised West London life and go to find the perfect bachelorette pad. And where else does one go when running away from responsibility but Soho?
I fell for the first flat I saw — a top- floor, two-bed garret on a Georgian pedestrian street. I begged friends to help me with the steep deposit, put my house on the market, and ran open-armed into a new life.
Taking on Issa, the Fayed family found its name alongside that of royalty again. Mohamed Fayed had held the Royal Warrant forHarrods. The more tragic encounter with royalty was for her half-brother Dodi Fayed, who was killed with Princess Diana on the night of the fateful car crash in Paris. Camilla doesn’t want to talk about Dodi, nor does she court the royal connection. Kate Middleton buying an Issa dress was “nothing to do with the company” — she just picked it out at Fenwick’s.
Until now, Dan Snow has styled himself as something of a Boy’s Own hero: square-jawed, well-spoken, off in far-flung places with TV cameras in tow telling tales of derring-do. But his coming out as an activist for atheism is causing a stir. In early November, the 34-year-old took to the pulpit at The Sunday Assembly, a secular “church” in Conway Hall, to lead a Remembrance service stripped of prayers and hymns, with the congregation, a mixture of the military and East End hipsters singing along to Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall instead.
Day 8032 in the Dawnay-Johnson house. Rachel Johnson is upstairs sorting through old books. Her husband Ivo Dawnay is sitting in his study, looking out of the window. The family cleaner Mumtaz is downstairs pottering about in their kitchen. Of the other housemates, Oliver, their 16-year-old son, was evicted on Tuesday, sent back to boarding school, Ludo, 20, has already left for university, and Charlotte, 19, is packing bags, ready to be next out. Coco the dog is snoozing at her master’s feet. Dawnay is the London director of the National Trust, which, along with Channel 5 and Endemol, is opening up the Big Brother house for a weekend at the end of September.