The Londoner: Lord Steel in peril at the Liberal Club

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Lord Steel may lose his position as vice-president of the National Liberal Club though the name of Cyril Smith will remain on a plaque in the entrance, The Londoner understands.

The private members’ club “doesn’t have any plans” to remove the sex abuser’s name from the list of chairmen on a wooden plaque, but fallout from the scandal — and Lord Steel’s role in it — has caused some members to question Lord Steel’s involvement in the club. The former Liberal leader quit the Lib Dems and withdrew from the Lords on Tuesday after being criticised by the inquiry into child sexual abuse for failing to pass on allegations that Smith was a child abuser because it was “past history”.

Speaking to The Londoner, chair Rupert Morris and deputy chair Tim McNally said: “It will be up to our members to decide whether they wish Sir David Steel to remain a vice-president of the club. Some members have raised it already.”

Morris and McNally said they were keen to preserve history. “We don’t plan on removing the names from the hallway because that’s history. It is a list of who was a president of the National Liberal Club,” they said, adding: “We took down a picture of Cyril Smith about ten years ago... we have a reputation as a club.”

Lord Steel recently told the inquiry: “These allegations all related to a period some years before he was even an MP and before he was even a member of the party, therefore it did not seem to me that I had any position in the matter at all. As far as I was concerned it was past history,” he added.

Morris and McNally told The Londoner that in the club’s Smoking Room “we do have a picture up of David Steel because he was leader of the party and we have pictures up of all the leaders of the party”. But they also indicated this might be subject to review depending on members’ views.

Macduffed up

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Broadcaster James O’Brien started professional life as a thrusting young diarist with a bruising encounter with Sean Connery. At last night’s Parliamentary Book of the Year awards in Westminster, O’Brien, who won an award for his book How to be Right, told us how, in desperation for story from Connery, he asked him whether he was jealous he never got to play Macbeth. “He stops dead and he comes stalking back down the corridor and he leans in and and he hits me on the nose — hard enough to make my eyes water — and he goes, ‘I played the part before you were born. Do your f***ing homework, sonny.’”

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Bake Off’s Prue Leith has seen her fair share of culinary fads but one still hasn’t caught on. “I made the mistake of saying I thought insects might help feed the world,” Leith writes in The Spectator, explaining: “now my post is full of mealworm powder and cricket flour and invitations to champion bug farms.”

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Toby Young launched his Free Speech Union last night with a defence of a Twitter trolling victim. “I’d like you all to welcome our newest member,” he said, packet of Yorkshire Tea in hand. Young was joined by Jacob Rees-Mogg who told us: “I’m all in favour of free speech and always have been.” Does this mean a return to the airwaves?

Amber's walkies on the wild side

PUG PALS: Amber and Yasmin Le Bon (Dave Benett/Getty Images)

It was two legs good, four legs better at George Club in Mayfair last night for the launch of the club’s Charitable Dogs Committee.

The Le Bons — Amber and her mother Yasmin — were there with their pug Luigi, one of the family’s three hounds. They opted against bringing Willow, the French bulldog who, Amber told The Londoner, is “like a tank”, explaining: “Everyone brings their well-behaved dogs.” Indeed, there was only a smattering of yapping as Nikki Tibbles of the Wild at Heart charity gave a speech. The Londoner even spotted one pooch calmly perched on its owner’s shoulders, like a quadruped parrot. Footballer Lee Dixon, an ambassador for the charity, said he was enjoying “the mayhem” but told us he didn’t bring his dog Ziggy. “If he’d have been here it would have been a little bit too much excitement… I counted 40 at the last count, there’s more dogs than humans.”

Over at the Coliseum, another former footballer, David James, made the press night of Madam Butterfly.

SW1A

Iain Duncan Smith is worried about Dominic Cummings. At the launch of a book on ex-shadow chancellor Peter Shore, he told the audience: “It ill behoves me to tell the Labour Party what to do — after all, we’ve got Dominic Cummings.” The former Tory leader added: “All I can say is that [leadership is] not what it’s cracked up to be. Trust me, I’ve done it.” Best to forget that episode.​

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Florence Eshalomi turns DJ tonight for an LGBT fundraiser at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. “My dancefloor fillers include Like a Virgin by Madonna”, the Labour MP tells us. “And to finish off… Things Can Only Get Better by D:Ream.”

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Ex-Labour MP Michael Dugher, who is leaving UK Music to become CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council, drew rare cross-party support at his farewell bash. “An eclectic turnout”, he told us, “Thérèse Coffey and Angie Rayner. Scottish Nationalists and the DUP.” Up next, Middle East peace?

Harry ditches the meat with the title

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When the Duke of Sussex spoke in Edinburgh yesterday, the catering was fit for a prince… or a Harry. Our most successful post-Brexit export spoke at the Travalyst sustainable tourism conference, where guests enjoyed vegan fare from a local caterer that included butternut squash and a paneer option for dairy diets. Just the sort of thing you’d find in a Californian yoga retreat. A nod to Meghan, maybe? The Londoner enjoyed the meal, but was disappointed there wasn’t an Irn Bru or a Tunnocks Teacake in sight.

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