Matthew Norman: Rab C is the man the Cabinet needs

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The Independent Online

Greater love hath no man than this, as Jeremy Thorpe so nearly put it of Harold Macmillan: that he lay down his classmates for his life. The pressure on David Cameron to take the long knives to a few toffs becomes irresistible, and the time to ignite reshuffle fever is upon us. It barely needs stating that Francis Maude's career as top-ranked Cabinet firefighter (bless him, he's no Red Adair!) will be canned; and that David Davis will be summoned from the wildnerness to lend a gloss of school-of-hard-knocks, self-made-mannishness to the team.

The Mail on Sunday offers a guide to the mood on the Tory right. Apart from a story headlined "Maude 'must go' over mother's petrol horror", it also reported that he is selling his South Downs home on the implied snobby grounds that Katie Price has a tone-lowering house nearby. Elsewhere, meanwhile, it gave Mr Davis space to analyse the Tory image problem with a piece far too cryptic to be briefly condensed here, though "How much longer do you want me on the outside pissing in, eh, Fauntleroy?" might do for a précis.

While the singly-parented council house boy's return seems a gimme, top Downing Street sources insist that others in line for Cabinet posts include Albert Steptoe, Adele, Rab C Nesbitt, Arthur Mullard and Hylda Baker, Rodney Trotter, Ena Sharples, Nadine Dorries and Alfred P Doolittle.

Another character from the Conservatives' provisional oik wing being touted for promotion is the Culture minister Ed Vaizey (St Paul's). "He's bright, funny and charming," insists his etiquette coach Anne Robinson, whose 12-year tenure on The Weakest Link sadly concluded on Saturday, "and a quick study. He came to stay on holiday once, and I warned him I'd throw him out unless he learned to say 'Please pass the butter', instead of leaning across five people to grab it. His table manners swiftly improved." If he's ready for kitchen supper, as that old Magic Circle saw goes, he's ready for Cabinet.

A proposal for the BBC Trust in its quest for a new director-general. Recalling how brilliantly PD James skewered Mark Thompson 16 months ago, the advice to is this: choose the five least laughable contenders, have Phyllis interview each at 8.10am on Today for a week. and make whoever emerges the least wounded your new D-G. Apart from saving about £500,000 in head-hunting fees, this might even find somebody with the gumption for the job.

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