TELEVISION / Famous for less than fifteen minutes

IN A move that it would have been hard to foresee at the height of his political career, Enoch Powell got up on television last night and showed us his knick-knacks. This was his 10 minutes of glory as the latest subject of Celebrity Mantelpiece (BBC 2), the thinking person's Through the Keyhole and one of the best television time-fillers to come along for . . . ooh, at least 10 minutes.

Less careful hands would have brutalised the basic idea here and offered us a series called Celebrity Fridge-Freezer - predicated on the depressing notion that the most interesting thing about famous people is where they do their shopping. Or you can imagine a still more downmarket version - Celebrity Linen Basket. Here, we are asked to read the life in a selection of homely clutter, on the more appealing principle that you are what you keep.

To be pedantic for a moment, Powell's mantelpiece looked suspiciously like the top of a book shelf, rather than the full-blown fire-surround that the programme's title led you to anticipate. Then again, Celebrity Top of a Bookshelf wouldn't have had quite the same ring, and as this really was the place Powell stowed his toy aircraft and his old starfish and his model soldiers and his 'Greetings on St George's Day' card, then it's pointless to quibble.

The stop-watch with the Union Jack face looked interesting and so did the commemorative 'Enoch for Britain' plate, but the most poignant story attached to that starfish. Beachcombing as a child with his father, Powell had stooped to pick up the first starfish he came across. His father had told him not to bother because there would be plenty of others. It was the last starfish they saw that day. Powell seemed to be saying that this incident had crystallised for him into a serviceable attitude to life. 'There is only the one starfish,' he declared. Or in other words, gather ye cockles while ye may.

Talking as ever like someone translating fluently from the Latin, Powell said of his mantelpiece: 'It's a kind of limbo in which that for which there is no other place eventually finds itself.' Not unlike the 8.50pm evening slot on BBC 2, in fact. Still, the programme further confirmed that age and retirement are the best things that can happen to politicians. Suddenly they develop these wheezy laughs and sweetly far-away voices and seem almost savoury. As the credits rolled, Powell said he hoped that his appearance wouldn't cause people to post him further items for his collection. He must have had a vision of the Tiber foaming with much in the way of old starfish and unwanted 'Enoch for Britain' bric-a-brac.

Off the mantelpiece and into the fire. The closest most of us come to counter- terrorism is a brush with a frightening member of the till staff in the local supermarket. This week's States of Terror - Peter Taylor's deeply researched and slickly executed documentary series - went to Northern Ireland and came back with the real thing. The programme was big on clarity and detail. It would be difficult to get nearer to what it might be like to be an MI5 Agent, informing on the IRA, without actually signing up.

Taylor claimed to have had unique access to a working agent. He was labelled 'Steve' and his confessions were spoken by an actor. You could earn pounds 200 a month for providing your 'handlers' with the occasional tip-off about a Sinn Fein rally, or the odd list of names. But you would probably need some other motive than cash, given the risks. Around Steve's words was woven the story of Gregory Burns, who was shot dead in July last year and left beside the road under a bin-liner.

Burns campaigned 20 hours a day for Bobby Sands during the hunger strikes and was in so deep he even fooled his friends and family, some of whom still argue that he couldn't possibly have turned informer. But we heard him say so on the tape of his confession to the IRA, which it took Taylor a year to get hold of. This was a trickily meshed tale, hard-won and well-told.

Thomas Sutcliffe is on holiday

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral