The Londoner: 'Trumpian' Booker chair in firing line

(L-R) Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo and Peter Florence (Chair of Judges): Getty Images
(L-R) Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo and Peter Florence (Chair of Judges): Getty Images

A publisher has accused the Booker Prize judge chair of making an “ugly, Trumpian” remark and demanded “the truth” about how the prize came to be awarded to two authors this year.

In remarks that will reverberate through the literary establishment, Sam Jordison, the co-director of Galley Beggar Press, pleads for one of the Booker judges to speak out about the process, saying: “Someone has to tell us what the hell happened.” Jordison, whose author Lucy Ellmann was shortlisted for her novel Ducks, Newburyport but lost out to Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo takes aim at Peter Florence, the chair of judges. At the start of his speech during last week’s awards, Jordison claims: “Florence made an ugly, Trumpian aside about ‘even’ having to thank journalists.”

An article by one of the judging panel, Afua Hirsch, has left Jordison demanding answers. Hirsch wrote in the Guardian: “How do you judge the titanic career, the contribution to culture of Margaret Atwood, against the sheer beauty of Elif Shafak’s Istanbul?”

But Jordison pointed out that the prize’s criteria stipulate the Booker is for the best book in English published that year. He writes in the TLS that he and his wife had “put everything” into the Booker and it cost them more than £6,000. “This prize had taken over our lives. And now, it seemed that we had not had a hope from the start.”

Jordison accuses Florence of having “opened Pandora’s box” by ignoring the competition’s rules.

Though there were five judges, they claimed they couldn’t reach a conclusion, despite all voting. “I still find it impossible to work out the maths,” Jordison writes, adding, “everything about the process starts to look questionable.” The Londoner has approached Florence for comment.

Come on, Marlene

Marlene Hobsbawm, skilled UN linguist and widow of Marxist historian Eric, is to publish her memoirs, Meet Me In Buenos Aires, a record of family, friendship and marriage.

She completed the book while recovering from a major fall. Marlene, who soon turns 88, has had a fascinating, unconventional life. She flirted with Kirk Douglas before she met Eric — “a groovy single man about town”, who became one of the world’s most famous political historians. Richard Evans wrote the famous book A Life in History about him. She’s clearly more than just a wife in history.


Nadiya Hussain, the 2015 Bake Off winner, says it’s “not always that easy” being famous. “At my sister’s best friend’s funeral I had somebody ask me for a selfie,” she tells Jay Rayner’s podcast. Hussain then asks the food writer about his weirdest selfie request. “Urinal,” he replies. “After you were done?” “No. I was still peeing.” Talk about taking the p***.


Thespian Daisy Lewis was at the Soho Hotel last night for a screening of The Actress, her directorial debut about an actor struggling with addiction. But Lewis told The Londoner it wasn’t all gloom: “The darker the material, the more fun the set. The thing that you never want to be on is a comedy, because then everyone’s miserable.”

Ellie sings the blues at oceans fundraiser

(L to R) Bella Tilbury, Neelam Gill, Casadei Global Marketing and Communications Director Arianna Casadei and Amber Le Bon (Dave Benett/Getty Images for Cas)
(L to R) Bella Tilbury, Neelam Gill, Casadei Global Marketing and Communications Director Arianna Casadei and Amber Le Bon (Dave Benett/Getty Images for Cas)

Blue was the colour last night as singer Ellie Goulding, strategy director Sofia Blount and brand consultant Steve Edge turned out for The Blue Marine Foundation’s dinner at the Fox and Pheasant in Chelsea. The foundation is a charity dedicated to creating marine reserves and establishing sustainable models of fishing, aiming to put 30 per cent of the world’s oceans under protection by 2030. Newlywed Goulding recently expressed her irritation at being constantly asked whether she’s thinking of having children:

“I hate being made to feel like that’s what I’m supposed to be doing on this earth.”

In Mayfair, Cesare & Arianna Casadei hosted a private dinner at Annabel’s to promote its new Fall Winter 19/20 collection. Musical royalty was present in the form of Amber Le Bon, daughter of Duran Duran star Simon, and Ella Richards, granddaughter of Rolling Stone Keith. Models Neelam Gill and Erin O’Connor were also there, as was Vivienne Westward’s granddaughter Cora Corré.


Ed Miliband is a fan of a new book. About him. Chaos With Ed Miliband imagines a world where he had won in 2015. Author Tom Noble, aka Roger Gammon, tells Miliband’s podcast he was “just trying to show what this kind of chaos could have been”. “It’s not gone well since for the country,” Miliband says, adding, “let’s be honest — how bad could it have been under me? It’s a pretty low bar, isn’t it?”


Tory MP Tracey Crouch FaceTimed her husband and child. “Three-year-old son: ‘We read gogglylocks [lol] and the bears at school.’ Me: ‘That’s nice, I’ve been reading about Brexit.’ Son: ‘My story is about porridge.’ Daddy: ‘So is mummy’s.’”


Lisa Nandy MP despairs at a vile letter sent to her, calling her one of the “hypocritical fascist traitors”. Her Labour colleague Jess Phillips offers advice: “I always reply to those with: ‘I’ll chalk you up as a maybe.’”

Regrettable rhymes, some might say

Former Oasis man Noel Gallagher won the BMI President’s Award for songwriting influence at the Savoy last night. But does he find any of his anthemic lyrics cringeworthy?

“All of them,” he said. “Well, a lot of them because I just made them up on the spot and thought, ‘Yeah, that rhymes, that’ll do.’” Noel singled out the band’s third album Be Here Now for being particularly embarrassing: “There is a lot of nonsense.” Famously modest Noel told The Londoner meeting him would be a career high : “It’s never gonna get better than this... I’m just warning you now.” We won’t look back in anger...

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