The great and the good
The journalist, Nicholas Coleridge, who described The Telegraph as “the most intelligent broadsheet between Bombay and Singapore” in his book, Paper Tigers, has been appointed Provost of Eton College. I hope he will cast a kindly eye on Indian boys applying to the school. When someone checked his passport a few years ago, they discovered that he had been to India 88 times. Many of the trips were when he was in charge of Vogue.
Admission to Eton is the responsibility of the headmaster and individual housemasters, but perhaps Coleridge will have some say over diversity because the Provost is the chairman of the school’s governing body. At 66, Coleridge, an Old Etonian himself, is a member of Britain’s “great and the good” — for 30 years, he was successively editorial director, managing director, president and chair of Condé Nast International. He is currently chair of the Victoria & Albert Museum and will chair Historic Royal Palaces on relinquishing this appointment. He has been chair of the British Fashion Council and of the Professional Publishers Association. He co-chaired last year’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant for Queen Elizabeth, for which he received a knighthood. King Charles formally appointed him Provost of Eton.
Coleridge told me he and his wife, Georgia, got engaged while staying at the Tollygunge Club in 1989. India, he said, has “a sort of spiritual serenity mixed with a glorious appetite for gossip which comes together to produce for me a very alluring country.” Coleridge has a public relations battle on his hands. Eton has been turned into a toxic brand by the Labour party which depicts it as a ‘privileged’ school that has produced 20 British prime ministers, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
Bask in humour
PG Wodehouse’s step-great-grandson, Hal Cazalet, is coming to India this month with a one-man show, Play on Words. It is meant to highlight Wodehouse’s career as one of the great lyricists of Broadway. Cazalet will be accompanied by “my wonderful pianist Simon Beck.” The show — “beautifully crafted, written and directed by Hugh Wooldridge” — will feature the work of “Wodehouse, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Alan Jay Lerner, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Maury Yeston, Noël Coward, Stephen Sondheim... and many more.”
Cazalet will begin at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai and move on to Goa, Pune and Bengaluru. If the British Council funding allows, the idea is to extend the tour to Calcutta and New Delhi. He tells me that the idea of a tour “immediately fascinated me, as I was well aware of Wodehouse’s enduring popularity in India, and charmed by the fact that we all share a very similar sense of humour.” He invites fans of “Plum” to “potter along to bask in the glow of some Wodehousian sunshine.” He points out that “Wodehouse, the lyricist, is a phenomenon. As he once said, all the books that followed were simply ‘musical comedies, without the music’.”
Indian peers impress their overseas guests in London by offering them lunch at the House of Lords. The Hindujas have done one better by buying the Old War Office in Whitehall, from where Winston Churchill fought World War II, and turning it into a luxury hotel with 120 bedrooms and suites plus 85 apartments. The Hindujas paid £350m for a 250-year lease and invested £1.4bn in the restoration.
Princess Anne formally inaugurated the OWO Raffles Hotel, a place of marbled splendour and chandeliers. The 600 guests included the Uttarakhand chief minister, Pushkar Singh Dhami. The bar displays the Aston Martin DB5 that was used in the Bond movie, No Time to Die, on the roof of the building.
After nearly a year in office, Rishi Sunak told the Tory party conference: “I am proud to be the first British Asian Prime Minister, but you know what, I’m even prouder that it’s just not a big deal.” It is progress of sorts that Asians in British politics are attacked by their enemies not on the grounds of race or ethnic origin but for their policies. Rishi was introduced, unusually, by his wife Akshata Murty, thereby inspiring a picture of Britain’s first family to illustrate Rod Liddle’s column in the Sunday Times. Rishi is telling his wife, “You look like a million dollars,” while Akshata’s response is, “Make that 700 million.”
In Scotland, meanwhile, the First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party is Humza Yousaf. The leader of the Scottish Labour Party is Anas Sarwar. Both are Muslims of Pakistani origin. There is no doubt that diversity has enriched British society.