How Lord Bell crashed Indie ball

AHEALTHY crowd gathered at the Phillips de Pury auction house last month to support the efforts of the Lebedevs in raising funds for their Journalism Foundation, an institution designed to promote ethical journalism around the globe.

Given the sway that Foundation chief and former Independent editor Simon Kelner has in the media and show business world there was no surprise to find countless celebrities in attendance.

Hugh Grant, Jemima Khan, Jerry Hall, Gary Lineker, Claudia Winkleman, John Snow and Richard Bacon all supported the event with their presence and no doubt their generosity in bidding for the various auction lots.

More surprising to some, however, was the presence of Lord Bell, the chairman of Chime Communications.

For Lord Bell has been at loggerheads with the Independent, one of the Lebedev newspaper titles, since last December when the newspaper published an investigation about his firm that entailed an undercover sting operation.

Lord Bell has complained to the Press Compliants Commission (PCC) about the articles, describing the sting operation as in breach of its code.

Lord Bell says he was invited to the event by Caroline Michel, the head of the literary and talent agency PFD and felt there was no reason to turn the invite down.

“Just because we’re having a difference of opinion isn’t a reason to be bad mannered or discourteous and I’m not somebody to attack anybody who has had a relationship with the Independent.

“I am amused that Kelner set up this foundation at a time when his former paper has, in my view, behaved in breach of the PCC code.”

Asked if he took the opportunity at the event to speak to Chris Blackhurst, the current editor of the Independent, he said: “He’s not somebody I choose to remember.”

Blackhurst said Lord Bell’s presence at the dinner was made known to him but that he did not get a chance to speak to him.

“We have no personal axe to grind against Lord Bell or anybody at Bell Pottinger,” said Blackhurst. “It was good to see him supporting a cause we all hold dear to our hearts.”

The event itself helped the not for profit organisation to raise around £150,00 for its activities, which include supporting journalists in Tunisia.