David Blunkett’s relentless efforts to promote The Blunkett Tapes, his diary of nine years in government, took him to the Foreign Press Club on Wednesday night. Not content with reading an abridged version of the book on BBC Radio 4, or its serialisation in not one but two newspapers, he is also hoping to gain an audience abroad by wooing the foreign hacks.
The invitation to hear the former Labour minister came with a hard-to-ignore warning in bold capital letters, with some of the words underlined for extra effect: PLEASE NOTE THAT DAVID BLUNKETT HAS REQUESTED THAT NO QUESTIONS BE ASKED ABOUT KIMBERLY QUINN – HE WILL NOT ANSWER THEM AND THIS WILL ANTAGONISE HIM.
It was, it will be recalled, his relationship with Quinn, the married publisher of the right-wing Spectator magazine who is mother to Blunkett’s “lad”, which led to his first resignation from the cabinet.
Antagonising Blunkett is, it seems, not a good idea. Early in the diary he reveals his propensity to “blow my top” or fly into “one of my rages”. Which gives credence to elements of the account Martin Narey, former director-general of the prison service, gives of his conversation with the then home secretary on the night of the riot at Lincoln jail in October 2002. Blunkett denies suggesting turning machine guns on the rioters.
Sir Humphrey’s blog
More news of Sir Peter Ricketts, Britain’s new top diplomat, who seems set on taking the Foreign Office into uncharted waters. This month, Sir Peter told the Financial Times that he had visited Manumission, Ibiza’s notorious dance club, to prepare for life as permanent undersecretary at the FCO. (Don’t ask.) Now his desire to be up to speed with the 21st century has led him to keep a blog.
Sir Peter’s musings, for official eyes only, mention a British triumph stemming from the recent Thai coup (38,000 hits to the travel advice website in two days – “a real FCO success story”). They also reveal that he sometimes works from home – “for work/life balance it’s definitely a good thing”. And to prove that he’s not past it, he tells staff that he went flying with the Red Arrows at Scampton on his summer break.
Of course, there are other bloggers in Whitehall, notably environment secretary David Miliband. But the Ricketts blog is a rare case of an official opening up – and from the home of diplomatic doublespeak, too.
Curious that Madeleine Bunting, who left the Guardian to become director of Demos, has quit within a few weeks of starting at the left-leaning think-tank on September 4.
Why the sudden change of heart? The Demos line on Wednesday – in a brief press release which nevertheless took all day to draft – was that since Bunting joined, ”it has emerged that her vision for Demos is incompatible with that of the trustees”.
Bunting is going back to the Guardian and is planning to write a book. Meanwhile, Catherine Fieschi, formerly head of research at Demos, becomes acting director.
Beanz meanz biz
A brouhaha at Guildhall, the City of London’s seat of government, on Wednesday where filming for the movie Mister Bean’s Holiday – or French Bean for short – was taking place. Guildhall, the City’s Hotel de Ville as it were, had been transformed into a French hotel, in the lodging sense, for the day, with staff reporting that frilly lampshades and glamorous women abounded.
Aside from the star, bumbling comedian Rowan Atkinson, passers-by were craning their necks to see mature-but-sexy Willem Dafoe. “He’s wearing a red tie and brown jacket. There’s a little dog, too. There’s a very continental feel to it,” observed one Guildhall worker from his office window inconsequentially.
Still it was business as usual inside. Apparently the City has a department devoted to helping film crews seeking locations within the Square Mile, which makes a profit for the City.
The film, which seems to owe much to Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, is due to hit cinema screens next March.
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