Alexandra Shulman’s Notebook

After Fiona’s bruising, is charity work a no-win role?



dmg media (UK)

The Party’s Over

THE furore over BBC1 Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce would be the stuff of satire if it weren’t another ghastly example of how impossible it is to speak straightforwardly nowadays. Bruce has had to resign her ambassadorship with Refuge, one of the country’s most high-profile and effective charities for female victims of abuse, because she correctly clarified – for sake of impartiality – a statement by a panellist on the programme. She felt duty-bound as a BBC journalist to put into context the comment that Boris Johnson’s father was a ‘wife-beater’. Enter the screaming hordes, accusing her of diminishing the importance of any kind of violence against women. Bruce was put in a no-win situation due to the toxic outcry that is always stirred up by any offended group lobby these days. Such a world means, sadly, that people are reluctant to put themselves forward as advocates for a noble cause. Since I left Vogue, I’ve had many requests to get involved with charities because, as the magazine’s editor, I had gained a profile and a voice. I guess the thinking goes that being no longer in full-time employment, I have hours to fill and could use my voice to help. However, the fear that you might – and, in my case, probably would – say something that might offend some party or other is a serious deterrent to getting involved in an area where you might otherwise be able to raise awareness or funds. If you have to second-guess the potential difficulty of every statement or, indeed, any opinion you might have, taking on a charitable role is much less appealing. Of course, there is a big difference between hosting Question Time and being an advocate for a charity. But in this instance Fiona Bruce was both. Refuge has lost a fine supporter by kowtowing to the social-media mob rather than using common sense, and understanding that Bruce was simply doing her day job – one that made her valuable to the charity. Meanwhile, others who might have been tempted to offer to add their voice and weight to a cause might wonder whether, in the end, it’s really worth the hassle. Can Royal favourite reclaim its crown? SUCCESSFUL nightclubs have always defined a period in time. Which is why it’s difficult for them to be resurrected in a different era. Boujis, the Noughties favourite of the young Royals, reopened last week. But can it replicate that twinkling in the celebrity stratosphere it once enjoyed where the buzz comes from people knowing they are in the right place at the right time with the right people? Those in the know – and that’s certainly not me – say the current places to be are The Shacklewell Arms in East London (where you might find actors Saoirse Ronan, Jack Lowden and Paul Mescal on the dancefloor), or the newly reopened private members’ House of KOKO in Camden, bursting with the Bright Young Things of today. Funnily enough, though, I remember pitching up at KOKO in the Eighties in a ra-ra skirt to listen to some electronica. So maybe I’m wrong and that resurrection is possible after all. Trees can be the root of a big problem PLYMOUTH’S Armada Way is such a wonderful name, conjuring up the image of magnificent fleets sailing into battle. Or it did. For now it has become a battleground between tree conservationists and the city council, which has been felling much-loved trees under cover of darkness in the name of redevelopment. The council regarded the trees as foiling proposals for new picnic and table tennis areas, an amphitheatre and, naturally, a cycle lane. While such amenities sound appealing, no doubt the scheme will end up sanitised and uninspiring once all the health-and-safety boxes have been ticked and the maples, rowans, sycamores and silver birches which gave the area character have been axed. While most of us consider trees as wholly good things – lovely to look at, restorative in the way only Nature can be, and CO2-gobblers – in an urban setting, it’s not always so simple. We have massive plane trees outside our front door. Their roots are lethal tentacles which threaten to undermine house foundations. At the back, other trees give us privacy and dappled shade but their roots, too, pull up paved terraces and can also damage paintwork. The professionals always advise: get rid of them. London would be a dire place to live without trees and most days I marvel at how lucky I am to have so many beautiful ones surrounding us. But on other days I worry. Oh no! Not yet another crack in the wall. The mystery of the missing BBC boss BY ALL accounts, BBC chairman Richard Sharp is a personable and clever bloke. But where’s he been during the Gary Lineker fiasco? If you can’t field a chairman in a crisis, what’s the point of having one? Surely this is the clearest indication that he can’t possibly remain in place. The other mystery is why it’s taking him so long to read the tea leaves. Only Anya can bag up a room of egos SHOULD there be a vacancy at the top of the Beeb, I nominate handbag designer Anya Hindmarch, pictured below, for the role. Last week she pulled off the feat of enticing 150 of the most talented and formidable women in London for a dinner at Chelsea Hospital. There was no grandstanding as Cherie Blair, architect Amanda Levete, fashion designers Sarah and Emilia Wickstead, chef Skye Gyngell and the Royal Marsden Hospital’s Dame Cally Palmer tucked into a selection of sharing plates. No one else could have managed to cram so many big egos in a room – a skill the BBC could do with. Hugh Hudson gave direction till the end AT THE funeral of Chariots Of Fire director Hugh Hudson last week, Nigel Havers told how Hudson had once given strict instructions that there should be no eulogy at his funeral. The actor asked him, given such matters were on his mind, whether he’d prefer burial or cremation. Ever sharp, Hudson replied: ‘I don’t know. Surprise me!’