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DIARY - RODNEY BROOKE'S ENTRE NOUS

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Since she left Doncaster MBC, Judy Rolston's career has gone into orbit. ...
Since she left Doncaster MBC, Judy Rolston's career has gone into orbit.

First the former head of legal services joined the DTLR's improvement team. Then she helped set up the Standards Board. Now the Audit Commission has appointed her head of the Best Value Inspection Service for the north.

Ms Rolston had a difficult last few months with Doncaster which culminated in the unsuccessful police prosecution of former chief executive Alf Taylor after he failed to accept her advice on a council circular.

Given her inside knowledge, Ms Rolston will no doubt look forward to inspecting Doncaster. She will also relish inspecting Wakefield MDC, which recently parted company with her partner Martin Pullan, its former chief officer (central services).

Boasting a smart new hairstyle is cuddly Graham Lane (Lab), controversial chair of the Local Government Association's education committee. What is the explanation for such elegance from one so notoriously careless of his appearance?

At the education conference in Swindon, secretary of state Estelle Morris ruffled his hair and said 'Why don't you smarten up, Graham?'

Mr Lane has obviously taken her advice to heart.

Two Labour general election victories have changed the face of politics. Less attention has been given to their dramatic effect on political gastronomy.

The disappearance of so many Conservative MPs has had a cataclysmic effect on Tory watering holes.

The most serious is the collapse of the Tory St Stephen's Constitutional Club where members had to profess Conservative principles. At least they get£40,000 each from the closure.

Even at the Carlton Club there is trouble. Trying to recapture the female vote, Iain Duncan Smith has declined membership until the club accepts female members.

New Labour has dealt a similar blow to the old hang-outs of the Left. A Labour restaurant for 50 years, the Gay Hussar, no longer attracts leading politicians. Only trade union dinosaurs still cling to its rib-sticking Hungarian dumplings.

Modern trade unionists, like Unison's Keith Sonnet, prefer the Gavroche - famous for introducing the£500 menu.

Equally out of fashion is L'Amico, where Neil Kinnock famously entertained Mr Gorbachev. Spaghetti Gorbachev remained on the menu until the restaurant changed its name. No doubt its association with Mr Kinnock is a disadvantage in these New Labour days.

In New Labour circles, L'Amico's hearty pasta has been replaced by the elegant Tuscan food of the River Café, favoured by Cherie Blair. Similarly austere dishes ornament the menu of the Granita, where prime minister Blair and chancellor Brown came to their famous pre-election agreement - or not.

Some of the old destinations remain. Politicians still meet City moguls in the Savoy Grill. Civil servants take refuge in the Pimlico Wine Vaults and apparatchiks in Whitehall's Red Lion.

Are the British alone in this clannish approach to political gastronomy? Overseas parliamentarians have a different tradition. By the Congress building in Washington, the Caucus restaurant provides patrons with rooms for intimate chats. The Laperouse in Paris does the same, though its red banquettes suggest politics is not the only thing discussed.

Neale Coleman was the scourge of Tesco heiress Dame Shirley Porter when she was leader of Westminster City Council.

Then a Westminster councillor, Mr Coleman was the key agent in exposing the homes-for-votes scandal over which Dame Shirley was surcharged£27m (LGC, 21 December, 2001).

Now Mr Coleman advises London mayor Ken Livingstone on housing. He launched the mayor's Minding the Gap campaign for affordable housing for key workers.

Where did the launch take place? The Grocers' Hall. And which company sponsored it? None other than Tesco. Nice to think Dame Shirley's dad's old company is correcting her errors.

Of course Dame Shirley's own Tesco shareholding evaporated around the time auditor John Magill surcharged her. So, for that matter, did all her other assets in this country.

Meanwhile the district auditor must decide whether to start more surcharge investigations against Dame Shirley. He shelved these until the outcome of the present case.

A few more£27m surcharges and even Dame Shirley may feel the pinch.

British chief executives take on strange roles in foreign lands, from Afghanistan to Zanzibar.

Now it can chalk up a first - a Santa Claus in Syria. Brian McAndrew, ex-chief executive of Enfield LBC, donned a white beard in Damascus.

How did Mr McAndrew's yo-ho-ho go down in the Muslim world? Well, actually he impersonated Father Christmas in the American Embassy.

From Hackney to hack

The job of Hackney LBC's chief executive might drive some to drink. Instead it seems to drive its former incumbents to prose.

LGC readers know the literary skills of ex-Hackney chief Tony Elliston - newly sharing this column with Joshua Toulmin Smith and myself. Now his predecessor, Jerry White, has written a 526-page history of London entitled London in the twentieth century. Unsurprisingly, municipal politics feature heavily, but he also writes about popular culture, crime and the economy.

He has a nice period quote from Lynne Reid Banks's 1960s novel The L-shaped room. The pregnant heroine craves curry in Fulham. 'But', she says, 'where am I to find curry in this benighted neighbourhood?'

Things have certainly changed. Now you can smell Fulham curry-houses in Chelsea.

-- 'London in the twentieth century' is published by Viking at£25.

Wish to purvey any gossip?

email rodney.brooke@lgc.emap.com

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