Diary – May 25, 1994


As if Dame Shirley Porter and her former cronies at Westminster Council were not experiencing enough difficulties at the moment, she is now confronted with condemnation all the way from Hollywood.
Alvin Toffler, the eminent sociologist, whose name Dame Shirley ‘borrowed’ to form the ‘Toffler Society’ – a fantasy group used as a cover when booking Westminster councillors into country hotels at weekends – has complained.

According to former Labour MP Eric Moonman, a professor at City University, who rang Toffler to tell him of the abuse, the writer gave him authority to relay his annoyance, but added that he would not be taking legal action.

‘The only connection Mr Toffler has ever had with Westminster Council is that he once lived in the borough, in Culross Street, Mayfair,’ explains Moonman, adding genially: ‘He also makes a point of never using Tesco.’

It must have been a tricky moment for octogenarian conductor Sir Georg Solti when his youngest daughter, Claudia, 21, appeared home for dinner one night and announced that she had landed her first film role. Triumphantly, the Oxford undergraduate told her parents that she would be playing Theresa von Brunswick, Beethoven’s sultry lover in a forthcoming movie, Immortal Beloved, about the composer’s life.

Knowing his daughter’s great desire to escape riding, so to speak, on her father’s famous coat-tails – she tells me she is even considering changing her surname – Sir Georg must have wondered how to respond. ‘Hmm,’ he eventually admitted: ‘I’m conducting the music for it, you know.’

Reports that the Duchess of York was flattered to be asked to play the part of Boadicea in Ken Russell’s proposed film about the flame-haired chariot-driving queen of the Iceni, are, I can reveal, somewhat short of the mark. I bumped into the duchess on Tuesday night at the Accademia Italiana’s opening of an exhibition of portraits in pastel by her painter friend Barbara Kaczmarowska-Hamilton (known, thankfully, as Basha), whose sketch of the duchess and her two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, was on display. ‘I put a pencil through the script and wrote ‘No’ at the top immediately,’ explained the duchess, sighing with relief: ‘Thank you very much for asking.’

Members of Parliament are being inundated with postcards from Post Office unions protesting at Michael Heseltine’s proposals to privatise the Royal Mail. They carry a jolly photograph of a Royal Mail van on one side, and a message on the other saying: ‘I am one of millions of people who use the Post Office. Please protect rural communities and help stop the privatisation and break-up of our Post Office. . .’

Beside it there is a space for the sender’s name. None, however, carries an address – causing some MPs to chortle, since all the cards have had their stamp franked by the sorting office with a message: ‘Return to sender? It’s easier with your address on the back. . .’

Nota bene, budding pop stars: two-thirds of the British production trio SAW, responsible for projecting Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan into the limelight, are to reunite after their split three years ago. Mike Stock and Matt Aitken have come together to produce a new series under the aegis of Arista records, which they hope will mirror SAW’s huge success in the Eighties.

They will be looking for new acts – most likely the same light boppy stuff adored by disco freaks, and loathed by me. (I refer to I Should be so Lucky, Locomotion, Too Many Broken Hearts, etc, etc).

Sadly, the third arm of SAW, Pete Waterman, is unlikely to come in on the new collaboration since not only is he extremely busy running his own record company, PWL, he is also immersed in collecting steam trains.

Recalling the difficulties of impromptu speeches at an awards ceremony at the Science Museum yesterday, David Mellor told how one senior minister was once called upon to speak during a prison visit.

The problem was how to address his audience. ‘Gentlemen’ did not seem quite right,’ Mr Mellor explained, ‘friends’ was a bit familiar and ‘colleagues’ perhaps a little too honest. Finally the minister found a solution: ‘How glad I am to see so many of you here today’.’

(Photographs omitted)