Diary – Monday 6 March 1995


That last vestige of British Communism, the Morning Star, (daily circulation 6,500, compared to 200,000 just after the Second World War) has appointed a new editor. John Haylett, the paper’s deputy editor, is set to take the helm in April – but only, it emerges, after a brush with what couldn’t possibly have been some very old-fashioned nepotism. When the People’s Press Printing Society committee, which thought it ran the paper, convened to elect Mr Haylett, Mary Rosser, the paper’s chief executive, stalled the vote, claiming that ultimate power in fact resided with the four-member management committee – which includes Ms Rosser. Enter her son-in-law, the paper’s 33-year-old news editor, Paul Corry, as new candidate. Eventually it was all sorted out and the fuss has gradually died down. But I gather there are those who still refer to Mr Corry as “Baby Kim” – after the son of Kim Il Sung who succeeded his father as ruler of North Korea last year.

Three weeks ago I revealed how the former Save Eldorado campaigner, Gwendoline Lamb, was persecuted in her local town of Middlesbrough after a tabloid newspaper revealed that she was on a blacklist of callers banned from Radio 4’s Call Nick Ross show. The BBC has subsequently apologised but the indomitable Ms Lamb is threatening to sue unless they pay her compensation for the harassment. The Beeb is clearly alarmed. Only yesterday morning Ms Lamb received two unctuous missives – one from Dave Stanford, head of radio, and one from Nick Ross himself – both of which were written, quite obviously, under the instruction: “Grovel.” It may not do any good, for Ms Lamb is obviously no push-over. “I’m still going ahead,” she says. “There are some very clever lawyers around … and I’m extremely bright myself.”

A tip for all those busily analysing the psyche of Nick Leeson: take a close look at the baseball cap he has been sporting so freely for the paparazzi. Its logo – a gothic D – is, I can reveal, the emblem of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. But do not assume that Mr Leeson is necessarily a Tigers supporter. It is more likely that he was persuaded to buy the cap, available at most sports stores, because it is the trademark of one of his childhood television heroes, the detective Magnum, alias the actor Tom Selleck, who is seldom seen without it.

Drama in the music world: there is to be a takeover at Britain’s oldest musical journal, the Musical Times, founded in 1844. Peter Phillips, director of the Tallis Scholars, has beaten music columnist Norman Lebrecht in the contest to buy it from Orpheus publications, although he stresses the deal won’t be signed until April. Still, MT staff – all three of them – are greatly relieved because Lebrecht wanted to shake the whole thing up. Phillips, on the other hand, intends to leave the format as it is.

But Lebrecht may yet be a force to be reckoned with. “I was going to put together a much broader magazine,” he admits, “because increasingly its appeal is exclusively for a declining academic readership. Its circulation has fallen to around 3,000, which is dismal. I am now in a position where I am probably going to start my own magazine in that area.”

The MT is certainly not for the musically risqu. Last year the romantic futurist composer Keith Burstein, whose work the Independent described as “of inspired beauty”, sent a programme of his concert at Southwark Cathedral to the MT editors, to have it returned with the word “Bollocks” scrawled across it in large capital letters.

Bad as they may be, things at the Musical Times cannot be as bad as they are at the Los Angeles Opera House, which is reputed in the trade for unfortunate incidents – bits of plaster falling on top of the orchestra, and the like. Still, flaky ceilings have nothing on the opera house’s latest trouble: scabies has broken out behind stage. For those who do not know, scabies is “a contagious skin infection caused by the itch mite. The sufferer experiences intense itching and the formation of vesicles and pustules” – Chambers Dictionary. The only way to rid a place infested with the mites is to call in the pest control officers. Over the weekend I called the opera house to find out how they were coping but, worryingly, I got no reply. My doctor, though, assures me that, though very nasty, scabies is seldom fatal.

I don’t often deal in smut, but some ironies are too rich to be resisted. Last week Paula Yates appeared on a repeat of Channel 4’s music show The Tube and was shown introducing Michael Hutchence of the antipodean rock combo INXS. This, of course, is the same Michael Hutchence who was recently exposed as having disrupted Paula’s marriage to Bob Geldof. After Hutchence had done his bit on stage, Paula turned to the camera and chortled: “He’s asked me back to his place, but I told him that I have my kids to think about …” Somebody at Channel 4 evidently has a rather vicious sense of humour.

I pride myself on having discovered a possible gap in Evelyn Waugh’s education: ping-pong. Listening in the car over the weekend to the HarperCollins tape of Waugh’s satire on Fleet Street, Scoop!, I noticed, bemused, that a ping-pong match played by his hero William Boot is scored thus: love- 15, love-30, love-40, game. But, as all ping-pong players know, the game is not scored like that and never has been. “It has always been the first to 21 and you have to be two points ahead,” confirmed the British Table Tennis Association when I called them yesterday. Was the error then deliberate or not? I put it to Waugh’s son, Auberon. “I’ve absolutely no idea,” he said, “but I am sure that my father never, in his entire life, played a single game of tennis or ping-pong.”