Having moved seamlessly up the social ladder from serving meals on Rat Class flights to being served them at Buckingham Palace, James and Carole Middleton may be counted on knowing all about tasteful entertaining. Now, the Duchess of Cambridge's parents are generously sharing their knowledge with the whole world. The former air stewards turned business magnates have launched a new range of products on their company (Party Pieces) website. Based upon the TV show in which contestants compete against each other to host the best dinner party, the Middletons warble: "If you've watched Come Dine with Me and thought 'I can do better'— team our Come Dine with Me kits with our stylish tableware! Bring out this sophisticated party range for special occasions — Inspired by vintage porcelain and using vibrant gold to give an elegant feel of distinction". Heavens! "Stylish", "sophisticated" and "elegant"? Well, how could it not be with such chic items as a gold plastic cutlery set for £1.99 and gold paper party napkins for £1.79? And for those really special occasions, as when the Middletons invite the Queen to dinner, there's also a gold plastic table cover for £2.75.
Who said romance is dead? A new book claims that Tom Cruise auditioned a series of actresses to be his real life wife by pretending he was trying them out for a film. Cruise, whose taste in women is clearly eclectic, supposedly invited actresses of such disparate talents [if not of cleavages] as Scarlett Johansson, Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba to a fake casting session. When –oh shock! Oh horror! — none of them worked out, Cruise reportedly turned to the actress, Katie Holmes, whom he married in 2006. The marriage ended in the divorce courts leaving Cruise Holme-less but rumoured to be casting about for a new bride. I urge him to resist the temptation. Having been married three times, he of all people should know that marriage for him seems not so much a Risky Business as a Mission Impossible.
Humphrey & Hacker
The Times reports that there is a bitter power struggle being waged in the corridors of power in Britain. No, it is not handbags at dawn between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories [the Lib Dems are all too aware that their only future lies in the political crematorium]. It is a war of supremacy between the civil servants and ministers. The politicians claim that their policies are being sabotaged, leaked and otherwise confounded by a truculent civil service who outwit their political masters at every turn. Matters have come to such a pass that David Cameron reportedly believes that the satire Yes, Prime Minister is a documentary rather than a fictional comedy. I don't doubt it. As for the mandarins, Sir Antony Jay, the creator of the famous TV series, says that "deep in their hearts, most civil servants despise politicians". I don't doubt that either. It is hard not to feel contempt when every single Lib Dem minister belongs to one or the other category of politician; those who talk nonsense about every subject under the sun and those who don't need a subject. If mandarins hijack policies, it is only because lily-livered ministers let them. If they really want to wrest power back they need the same courage of their convictions that Michael Gove is showing at the Department of Education and Ian Duncan Smith is at Work and Pensions. In both these departments, it is only the tenacious belief in the rightness of their cause that has enabled these excellent ministers to make the most long overdue and radical changes to Britain's education and social welfare system in the last 50 years. Until we have more politicians like them a ceaseless show of activity will remain the politician's substitute for achievement.
France's preposterous president Francois Hollande has rebuked David Cameron for saying he will fight for a "better deal for Britain" within the European Union and put the revised terms to a public referendum. Oh no he can't, said France's popinjay-in-chief, because membership of the EU, like marriage, is for life. Such a pity Hollande doesn't practice what he preaches or he wouldn't have traded in the mother of his four children for a new mistress.