elcome back to the Londoner’s Diary. First up we learn Dominic Raab has snaffled a portrait of the Queen for his private office even though it was meant to go on show in the area of the Foreign Office that’s open to the public. Later today Bimini Bon Boulash tells us she thinks she could convince Sadiq Khan to go vegan after the pair brunched together and church leaders in Soho despair at the “awful” lack of singing in congregations. In SW1A MPs express their fury over the redevelopment of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and Baroness Campbell explains why she is like Cinderella.
Dominic Raab is such a fan of the Queen he’s snaffled a portrait of her for his private office that was meant to go on show in an area of the Foreign Office open to the public.
“The FCO commissioned me for the portrait of Her Majesty saying it would go on show in its reception area,” artist Miriam Escofet says, adding “but rebuilding works mean it has never gone there. It is in the Foreign Secretary’s office”.
Escofet’s portrait of the monarch was unveiled last July virtually, in a first for the Queen. “She seemed to react very positively to it,” Escofet said at the time. The Queen was also pictured smiling during the unveiling. Escofet, pictured, was commissioned after she won the BP Portrait Award in 2018 with a painting of her mother. The National Portrait Gallery recommended her and Sir Simon McDonald, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office at the time of the unveiling, praised the finished work’s “truth and dignity and wisdom”.
It seems the Foreign Secretary takes McDonald’s line. While a Foreign Office spokesperson said it would hang in the reception when it was reopened, we wonder whether Raab will give it up so easily?
MPs are furious over the redevelopment of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. “We will lose the unique Whitechapel Foundry… to yet another hotel” thunders Tory Sir Edward Leigh, while the SNP’s John Nicolson attacked Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden: “If only he were as proactive in saving the… foundry as a slaver’s statue.” Talk about dropping a clanger.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton lives a different kind of fairytale. “I’m like Cinderella,” the disabled peer tells PoliticsHome. “I have to leave [Parliament] by 8.30pm … [or] I will stop breathing”. Campbell, who uses a ventilator at night, wants greater flexibility on home working, adding: “I don’t really think anyone wants me to capitulate in the middle of a speech”.
Enjoying freedom at artist’s new show
Emma Weymouth, the Marchioness of Bath, and Made in Chelsea’s Mark-Francis Vandelli embraced lockdown lifting last night at the private view in Soho for Piotr Krzymowski. Fashion journalist Henry Conway and musician Leila Russack were also at the PROJECT thirteen event. The exhibition, Major Incident, has works made of Covid waste such as single-use masks found on London streets. High society does trash.
Soho churches not yet singing praises
Soho may be unlocking, but not all of its residents are ready to rejoice fully just yet. Church congregations cannot yet sing until more restrictions are eased. There had been calls for singing to restart with the limited indoor reopening, but Reverend Simon Grigg of St Paul’s, the Actor’s Church, tells us “we do as we’re told,” but admitted “it’s awful, it’s just not the same at all” without singing. Reverend Simon Buckley of St Anne’s Soho chimed in: “St Augustine, in the fifth century, said that ‘whoever sings once prays twice’ and so not being able to sing together in church has been a real loss to us this last year”.
Vegan drag star’s on a roll
Bimini Bon Boulash tells us she thinks she could “definitely convince” Sadiq Khan to go vegan after the pair enjoyed a meal at a vegetarian restaurant yesterday. “His eldest already is so it isn’t far removed — plus I make banging vegan food,” the drag star says. Bimini dreamed about starting her own restaurant, adding: “I think it would just be strictly warm crusty white rolls. Perhaps lots of dumplings as well.” The Londoner is less sure about the persuasive power of that fare…
Maxwell film may raise temperature
Ghislaine Maxwell is in the spotlight again — as the subject of a new documentary this year. Chasing Ghislaine, produced by best-selling author James Patterson, will focus on Maxwell’s role in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and how she “threatens a shadowy cabal of international elite and world leaders who might do anything to keep their identities — and motives — hidden”. It will feature “original audio recordings” of her former partner and others in his circle. Will Prince Andrew finally break that sweat?