Bodyguard to the stars

Bodyguard Mark Billingham isn't fazed by celebrity.

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Billingham (right): "That [action] role you've just done, mate? I do that for a living"[/caption]Mark Billingham spent 27 years in the SAS. In 2005 he led the mission that rescued British hostage Norman Kember in Iraq and, later that year, the SAS counter-terrorist team during the London bombings and their aftermath. Now he has forged a successful second career as a Hollywood bodyguard protecting celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

Talking about the robbery of Kim Kardashian in Paris, Billingham tells The Times there is a "nine in ten" chance that someone within her circle let out that she would be in her apartment with the diamonds at the time of the robbery. People always talk too much. Celebrities, for example, need to be wary of their drivers. "Never trust them. They'll always let you down and know where you're going and tip people off. So no talk in the vehicles and never give away times and locations."

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Billingham's first piece of bodyguard work was for Tom Cruise in Rome. The actor needed protection and Billingham flew out. He "refused to play the crony", says Ben Machell in The Times, "laid down the ground rules and Cruise impressed did as he was told". Billingham has continued in the same vein, resolutely unimpressed by fame. "The celebrity thing has never bothered me. It's just a bloke who's been in a film.

I don't get overwhelmed by that s**t. And not to be big-headed, but that [action] role you've just done, mate? I do that for a living." He gets on especially well with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Pitt, he says, would "pop into the hotel room and ask to borrow my T-shirt or vest Sometimes he'd ask me what it was like to just go to the pub, and I'd think he was taking the p**s. But then I realise they can't do that. Even if they wanted to. They're normal people doing a job, but you feel sorry for them because they can't have what we have."

How crackshot Robert Peel won 300 guineas

Daisy Goodwin's entertaining ITV series about Queen Victoria has attracted the usual scoffing from those who love pointing out errors. But one point, as The Times says, definitely needs correcting: during the programme, Sir Robert Peel told Her Majesty he did not shoot. In fact, he was among the finest shots to inhabit Downing Street.

"At one weekend in Suffolk, he was bet 300 guineas he couldn't bag a pheasant, two partridges, a brace of snipe, a woodcock, a rabbit and a hare in the same day." Peel went out at 10am and returned at lunchtime having bagged the lot.

Margaret Thatcher's love of toffs

As Dominic Lawson notes in The Sunday Times, an interesting theme of Ken Clarke's memoirs is that while Margaret Thatcher always scorned effete public schoolboys, she retained a veneration for the aristocracy.

The two had a furious row, for example, when Thatcher wanted to give the site of the closed St George's Hospital on Hyde Park Corner back to the immensely wealthy Grosvenors who had originally donated it the then Duke of Westminster wanted to turn it into a five-star hotel. "I was perfectly happy to sell it," writes Clarke. "But I wasn't prepared to give it to them for nothing." In the end he got his way, but an "indignant" Thatcher took a lot of persuading.

Tabloid money Tesco's lesson for the Brexit doom-mongers

"Shame on food giant Unilever for trying to capitalise on the fear around Brexit by jacking up prices of family favourites like Marmite and PG Tips," says Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. "Tesco, told they'd have to pay 10% more (because of the falling pound) had the cajones to say: Stick your Marmite and tea bags where the sun don't shine.'

"And guess what? Unilever folded. It's a lesson to those doom-mongers who say Britain is going to get stuffed on everything post-Brexit. We're not if we hold our nerve. Anyway, Marmite's ingredients all come from the UK, so if Unilever gets uppity again we're more than capable of knocking up our own."

"When I was living next door to the Blair family in Islington, my son was packed off to the local comprehensive, Islington Green, while Tony and Cherie shipped their sons all the way across town to the London Oratory, the most exclusive faith school in the land," says Tony Parsons in The Sun. "So it comes as no shock that Baroness Chakrabarti chooses to send her own little darling to £18,000-a-year Dulwich College. Labour politicians always passionately believe in comprehensive education. But for your children. Never their own."

"Scary Nicola Sturgeon, who spits out words like a staple gun on automatic fire, wants to re-run her doomed referendum on Scottish independence," says Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. "It will not happen. On its own, deep in debt and with North Sea oil at half price, the Scottish economy would be a basket case worse than Greece, as ITV interviewer Peter Smith pointed out. Sturgeon took offence, claiming it was an insult to compare Scotland with Greece. "Well, I'm Scottish,' retorted the reporter, and I'm not insulted'."

In a book about Donald Trump, Ronald Kessler says Trump gave him a tour of his Florida estate, reports the Daily Mail. Opening a door, Trump said: "This is a secret passageway that goes all over the house. So if I want to visit someone in another room, I can do it without the security people watching me."