Straw's memoirs suggest former Labour leader John Smith had a drink problem



23:52 GMT, 12 December 2012

Labour’s former Home Secretary Jack Straw suggests in his memoirs, Last Man Standing, that much-admired ex-leader John Smith, who died in 1994 aged 55, had a drink problem. ‘It was not possible for someone that dependant on alcohol to determine, in advance, when he needed to be sober,’ he said on Radio 4 while publicising his book. But Smith’s friend and parliamentary neighbour, ex-Labour MP Tam Dalyell, says: ‘He did like a dram, but several veteran members of his constituency party have told me that, during 24 years as their MP, they never saw him the worse for wear.’

Open: Labour's former Home Secretary Jack Straw speaks out in his memoirs

Open: Labour's former Home Secretary Jack Straw speaks out in his memoirs

There has been some unpleasantness involving the 7th Earl of Durham, 51, who inherited the 12million estate of his father, former Tory minister Tony Lambton. ‘Ned’ Durham is resisting attempts by some of his five sisters, including broadcaster Lady Lucinda, to get a share of the fortune. When they met recently at a family funeral he knocked a new trilby hat off the head of Lucinda’s husband, 89-year-old Sir Peregrine Worsthorne. ‘Perry’ makes light of the episode, saying: ‘Some people have an odd sense of humour.’ But a friend says: ‘Lucy and Perry were pretty upset.’

Old hostilities between former Labour comrades Neil Kinnock and George Galloway have flared up again. During an interview with Radio 5 Live, ‘Kinnockio’ denounced ‘Gorgeous George’ as a charlatan, adding: ‘He always gets rumbled in the end.’ The Respect MP returned fire: ‘Is Neil Kinnock, who betrayed the miners from whom he sprang, the worst prime minister we never had Discuss.’

Feminist academic Camille Paglia takes a swipe at young female stars, telling The Hollywood Reporter that ‘America’s latest sweetheart’ Taylor Swift, 22, ‘has a monotonous vocal style, pitched in a characterless keening soprano and tarted up with snarky spin that is evidently taken for hip by vast multitudes of impressionable young women worldwide.’ As for Katy Perry, 28, ‘after the train wreck of her brief marriage to epicene rou Russell Brand, her dazzling smiles are starting to look as artificial as those of the ageing, hard-bitten Joan Crawford.’ Ms Paglia is 65.

Giles Coren on Twitter about Times editor James Harding stepping down: ‘I am gutted … the best editor I have ever worked for. The Times has f***** itself in the a***. Merry f****** Christmas.’ A gracious tribute is always appreciated!

TV presenter Michael Parkinson, 77, says the basic diet in the pit village where he grew up was Yorkshire pudding. ‘We would have one before the main course with gravy, then a Yorkshire pudding with roast beef, veggies and potatoes. Then we would have Yorkshire pudding with jam or treacle. So I grew up looking like a Yorkshire pudding.’ Too modest, surely.