Blackhurst's Diary

Article excerpt

In which our diaristforesees a Sunday fight over money, tries to force a word in edgeways between the Hamiltons, and diagnoses the Hindujas' image problem

THE OTHER LANE FOX

My award for most unlikely e-commerce millionaire goes to Robin Lane Fox, professor of theology at Oxford University. Lane Fox, a delightfully detached scholar, has just discovered the delights of cashpoint machines. 'Did you know, you just put a card in the wall and out comes money,' he told Martha, his daughter, recently. At least Lane Fox is unlikely ever to have his card refused. For, despite his rarefied academic manner, he is a substantial shareholder in Martha's soaring internet business, lastminute.com.

SCRAPPING OVER WHO'S GOT WHAT

Stand back for a battle royal as rival newspaper rich lists hit the streets. The Mail on Sunday is sparing no expense in its bid to outflank the Sunday Times, which for years has claimed the ranking as its own. Word is the MoS is working on a revaluation of the assets of the Duke Of Westminster, which will make him Britain's richest man with an estimated fortune of over [pounds]10 billion. If so, the Sunday Times is promising to dispute the figure, sticking to its own assessment of [pounds]2 billion. Grow up, boys. As Paul Getty once said: 'If you can count your money, you're not really rich at all.'

COMMANDING KNOWLEDGE

Over dinner with John Bridgeman, director general of the Office of Fair Trading, talk turns to cuts in the armed forces and the hardship faced by our men and women in Kosovo. Bridgeman, to my astonishment, has a deep knowledge of all things military. Mentioning in passing a discussion with the second sea lord, I challenge him to name him; he does. Prompted further, he names the first sea lord. I ask if knowing the identity of all our brass hats is a hobby. He replies that he is chairman of the National Employer Liaison Committee for the Reserve Forces (which persuades employers to let their staff spend time away as reservists) and honorary colonel of the Oxford Hussars. Put in my place, I wish I'd done my homework.

NEIL AND PRAY

Having a meal with Neil and Christine Hamilton is one of the more bizarre ways to spend an evening. They are perfectly pleasant company, if a little mad. They talk non-stop and behave like a well-rehearsed comedy act, finishing each other's sentences. Theirs is an isolated, unreal world. I try to lead them away from their legal fight with Mohamed Al Fayed -- I learn, in the process, that Neil has taken up jogging to compensate for those calorie-burning House of Commons corridors. …