Francis Beckett

After 46 years I had hoped I'd meet N.F. Simpson again.  But on the preview night of If So, Then Yes, he wasn't there. He was due the next night, apparently.

Which is a great shame.  In 1964, he man who invented absurdity - the creator of the speak your weight machines which were being taught to sing the Hallelujah Chorus - taught English A-level at the City of Westminster College.  I was one of his students. Actually, he thought I was rather talented.  He said so.

The myth that Tony Blair "made Labour electable again" is getting another outing in the wake of the great man's memoirs.  Yesterday I participated in a small and secret gathering of five people (I'm not allowed to tell you who they are, but they are all well known names and have good political contacts) to choose the Daily Telegraph's 100 most influential people on the left.

Just after Gordon Brown left office, I spoke to his aide Wilf Stevenson, who was helpful when I wrote my instant biography, suggesting Brown might co-operate with a rather fuller version. 

William Hague's strange troubles reminded me of the misunderstanding that arose when, in the days we were both national officials of the NUJ, Jake Ecclestone and I told our Norwich hotel that we wished to share a room. How to Teach by Phil Beadle, just out from Crown House Publishing.

We're told that, whatever you say about Tony Blair, he did make Labour electable. But he didn't.  There isn't even that.

Here's my last word in the Blair controversy.  Greg Dyke, once an enthusiastic Blair supporter, ended his 2004 autobiography Inside Story, with these words, which can't be bettered:

The Independent's John Rentoul struggles, he writes on his blog, to understand "the socio-psychology of Blair rage."  Which shows how living for years in the Westminster village can make the real world look very strange.

Spent this Sunday morning doing a live BBC1 programme called Sunday Morning Live, and found myself engaged in a surprisingly bad-tempered battle of the biographers with fellow Blair biographer John Rentoul, which took a rather odd and disturbing turn.

An odd day yesterday.  To the Department of Education for a long, relaxed interview with the new Education Secretary, Michael Gove, whom I'm profiling for the New Statesman; then along to the Fire Brigades Union rally at the TUC for London firefighters.