Diary – May 17, 1994


Virginia Bottomley has just been dealt another severe punch in the face. She was billed as the star performer in this weekend’s annual symposium of the Conservative Medical Society; now the event has had to be postponed owing to insufficient interest.
Officially a spokeswoman for the Society – an independent Tory association, headed by John Major and Baroness Thatcher – blames ‘unforeseen circumstances’ for the low number of tickets sold. Initially, I’m told, the situation was so dire the organisers decided to cancel, but optimism must have prevailed at the last minute.

The news can only be very disappointing for Mrs Bottomley, whose ‘keynote address’ was widely advertised in medical circles, and in the organisation’s bi-monthly publication: The Bulletin. It is, I’m told, the first time in its 19-year-old history that the event has had to fold. Nothing personal I’m sure.

A story comes my way from the Temple, which, I hope, will dispel the myth that the general mentality of barristers is as far above that of other mortals as their costumes suggest. A Recorder (senior barrister and part-time judge) in a well-known common law set returned from court one day to find her room transformed. On the desks, on the shelves, on the window sills, on the mantlepiece, and covering her favourite print of Lord Cockburn were those disgusting Lloyds Bank promotional toys, Quentin the Troll and family accompanied by the Talking and Accounting Pigs. Wearily the Recorder carried on with her duties among the debris, well aware which of her colleagues were the culprits. Future Lord Chancellors presumably.

A postcript to my story last week about the unfortunate hiccup in the otherwise dazzling career of Elizabeth Hurley, the actress girlfriend of Hugh Grant, who so effectively displayed an unusual fetish for safety pins last week. The next time we see Miss Hurley, I can reveal, she is likely to be wearing even less: on the front cover of a talking book she recorded last week, and which will be promoted in the next edition of The Modern Review. While I sympathise with those who have argued that it is a pity that Miss Hurley feels the need to market herself in so unsubtle a fashion, on this occasion, I can’t but help admire her honesty. The talking book, amply decorated with her sultry features, is suitably titled: Ambition.

It is just as well that Eton has resisted temptation, and maintained its exclusion of the fairer sex. For winging his way to the staff room in September, once he has cleared the hurdle of Oxford finals is Guy Burt, 21, precocious author of two published novels, and firmly considered (at least by my colleague, Marie, and myself) to be an absolute dish.

A scholar at Charterhouse, the self-effacing Burt has already demonstrated considerable agility in the classroom. He wrote his first novel, After the Hole, while supervising prep at St John’s preparatory school, Devon, during his gap year; his second novel, Sophie, due out this summer, was penned during his second year at Oxford ‘when there wasn’t too much else to do’.’

Nor will his role as Eton English master prevent him from continuing his scribbles. ‘I’ve got an idea for a third book on Oxford, which I hope to write there,’ he explains. Not, I’m sure, that this will prevent him from taking his teaching duties with the utmost seriousness. ‘I hope to be innovative in the areas not bound by the curiculum,’ he says – sounding ever so faintly resonant of Robin Williams in The Dead Poet’s Society.

Lord Sutch has been reunited with his top hat which, you may recall, he lost at Barry Island Conservative club at the weekend. Contrary to reports it had not been stolen. ‘It was just mislaid, – by him,’ sighs the finder Philip Walker. ‘He simply lost it as he seems to lose most things. . .like elections.’

(Photograph omitted)