Diary – June 22, 1994


In a move unlikely to enhance Anglo-Australian relations, a full-scale replica of HMS Endeavour, the sturdy vessel in which Captain Cook discovered the fifth
continent, is shortly to leave its homeland (where it was intended to remain) for Britain. There it will rest in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich – one of whose trustees has bought it for the princely sum of Ausdollars 1.

The replica, also named Endeavour, was originally meant to be a present for the Australian people from former sailing tycoon Alan Bond. It was already two-thirds built in 1991 when Bond ran aground, so to speak, and he found himself a bankrupt.

Led by trustee Arthur Weller, the British Maritime Museum took charge of the situation, purchasing – if you can call it that – the 110ft square-rigger, lying in Fremantle, Western Australia, and completing the construction. The journey here is likely to take nine months as the boat, retaining many mid-18th century features, is not exactly a modern speed machine.

Nonetheless, it does retain stainless steel fastenings on the hull instead of wrought iron – for insurance purposes. Cook, after all, got stuck on the Barrier Reef.

To the launch of Pitiless Pursuit by Brian Sedgemore, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, where I once again encountered John Major’s charming brother, Terry, accompanied by his wife Shirley. While Sedgemore was reluctant to acknowledge that the book was in any way based on past realities at Granada – ‘I’m a barrister, you know. . .and I won’t be sued for libel’ – Shirley vouched for the MP’s normally more accommodating nature. ‘He’s such a nice man,’ she sighed. ‘Nice enough to make me vote Labour.’

Organisers of sporting events, it seems, should be wary of admitting my colleague David Robson to their future gatherings. Robson, who is busy most days editing this section, though a sports enthusiast, has ventured forth only twice so far this summer to see the great ones: first to Lord’s to see Warwickshire take on Middlesex where Brian Lara was lbw for a golden duck. Second to Wimbledon on Tuesday to see Steffi Graf beaten in the first round. ‘What next?’ he asked jovially in the corridor yesterday. My guess is that Mark McCormack and fellow athletic agents would rather not know.

Further to my recent note concerning the advice of septuagenarian Lord Salisbury to young Lord Mancroft, when voting in the Lords for the first time, another tale from the Upper House comes my way. . .but I have been requested to keep out the names of the protagonists. Another young peer made his debut recently and, like the Marquess of Salisbury, a more experienced member was keen to show him the ropes. The pair sat down together to listen to the start of a debate when, suddenly, the elder bent forward, craned his neck at the bench opposite. ‘See that man?’ he asked the youth, who nodded. ‘He stole my land.’ ‘Oh?’ replied the younger, taken aback at such hostility. ‘When?’ The old man rubbed his hands together and glowered angrily before replying: ‘1555.’

As Jim Murphy, president-elect of the National Union of Students, prepares to take the reins of office next week, I note with amusement that his predecessor Lorna Fitzsimons, 26, has just landed a job at Rowland Sallingbury-Casey – owned by Saatchi & Saatchi – the Tories’ favourite advertising company.

Inevitably words such as ‘sell-out’ are being bandied around Congress House. Fitzsimons, however, shows remarkable equanimity. Reminding me, in case I’d forgotten, that she successfully fought John Patten over the power of student unions, she insists that she still retains her left-wing principles.

(Photographs omitted)