Diary – Monday 1 May 1995


Most of you, I’m sure, think that the Tories are the ones most dreading Thursday’s local elections: but another party is covered with embarrassment – Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalists. Its leaders have just heard that Michael Oliver, the Plaid organiser for South-west Wales has applied for a full-time post with the nationalists’ enemy: the Labour Party.

His application is particularly damaging since Labour is actively working to strengthen its hold in South-west Wales, while old Plaid hands hark back to the Seventies when it was a nationalist stronghold under Gwynfor Evans, former MP for Carmarthen.

Still, Plaid spokesman Carl Davies put on a brave face when I rang: “Actually he’s only on a short-term contract with us and it’s more organisational than political. It was just a very nave thing to do. We don’t think there was anything malicious meant by it.”

Labour, however, is more baffled than triumphant. “We rejected his application,” says a spokeswoman. “We had to. We felt the fact he belonged to another party showed he wasn’t entirely committed.”

At least the controversy over the use of £12m of lottery money to buy the Churchill Archive for the nation has not robbed Piers Brendon, the archive’s keeper, of his sense of humour. Yesterday my colleague Colin Wheeler, the Independent’s wonderfully witty cartoonist, received a letter from him requesting a copy of Colin’s front-page cartoon that illustrated our report of the row. “I ask for it as a gift,” wrote Mr Brendon, “because, contrary to the impression given in the papers, the Churchill Archives Centre has no money for acquisitions. But I hope you would be pleased to think of your work being preserved for posterity in optimum conditions as a pictorial footnote to Churchill’s career.” Colin is considering the offer.

We have Greta Garbo’s bluntness to thank for the famous photographic career of the British Bohemian Cecil Beaton. This, at least, is what Charles Spencer reveals in his forthcoming book about Beaton: Cecil Beaton: Stage and Film Designs (Academy Editions, £21.99).The young Beaton harboured many ambitions, including a passion for the stage. He was enormously flattered when, in 1946, he was cast in a San Francisco production of Lady Windermere’s Fan – on the strength of his English accent. He immediately cabled his friends in England telling them the good news and ignored their return cables begging him not to do it.

It was not until the show reached New York and Greta Garbo came to see it, that he finally got the message. Garbo sent him a note after the performance: “Cecil,” she wrote, “for God’s sake get off the stage.”

I know enough about jungle music to be sure that it is the virtually exclusive property of hip Afro-Caribbean subculture. After all, it is only sold in special jungle record stores, the location of which only jungle fans know about. When I asked my white supposedly right-on colleagues from Islington for a definition of jungle they shook their heads in despair.

It would therefore be a truly brave white man indeed who felt bold enough to cut his musical teeth on the genre … which is why, no doubt, it has fallen to the nation’s most cocksure breed – Etonians – to do precisely that.

Causing their former music masters to turn pale at the thought, student Ed Shrager (a former music exhibitionist) and “temporary gardener” Dom Leyton, both 22, are shortly to release what must be the first jungle music record cover featuring the lion from Eton’s crest. “It’s called ‘Lion Dog: Chester and the Tap Dancer’,” says Leyton (who is the son of the Sixties pop star John ‘Remember Me’ Leyton). Their record company is the equally canine Retriever records.

Conversation with Leyton shows that over the past four years he has worked hard to downgrade his once pristine vowels, while Shrager is proving his subcultural integrity by living in a German squat. One can’t help wishing such a serious duo every success: “There’s no reason why jungle music should be exclusively black inner-city music,” says Leyton pensively, “but … no, I don’t know any other Etonians who’ve done this.”

A one-liner that seems too good to omit: the headline of a press release from Cafod, the Catholic church’s overseas development agency reads: “Cafod welcomes Bishops’ Stand on Landmines”