Matthew Norman's Media Diary

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In the matter of Prince Harry and the swastika, few organs have taken a more robust line than the Daily Mail. Not that we'd be so crude as to employ the word "overkill", but on Friday pages one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 and 12 were devoted to the ass, the last taken not only by Stephen Glover (are even the middle classes losing patience with the monarchy?, asked Glover, to whom we return below); but a leader as well. Beneath the headline, "Only a proper apology will do", no words were minced. "Crashing insensitivity ... cringe-making ... intolerable insult ... crass behaviour"... and so on. All fair comment, of course, if a shade hysterical, but reading this I found myself slipping back to the autumn of 1992, when the late Sir David English had just vacated the Mail editorship in favour of Paul Dacre. I was serving out notice on The Mail on Sunday, having resigned soon after the arrival of a new editor, Jonathan Holborow, the former shepherd whose intellect and political vision qualified him to lead the ultra-right wing group of any self-respecting flock. Several colleagues had quit too, and our band of renegades sought sanctuary in a little office around the corner from the features department. With a huge fancy dress bash to mark Sir David's elevation imminent, we were joined there one day by the outfits selected by senior MoS executives, which were arrayed on a rail. I wouldn't dream of insulting your intelligence by detailing the precise nature of these costumes. Suffice it to say that you'd be startled to see them worn on the streets of Stamford Hill or Bushey.

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Not that the liberal press is entirely free from the scent of hypocrisy. When Alan Clark died, the obituaries were exclusively warm, lingering on his charm and wit while skirting around his borderline hero worship of Hitler. God knows what was excised from his Diaries on grounds of taste, but there was enough left in - the naming of his dogs after Hitler's pilot and Leni Riefenstahl, for instance, and his affectionate references to the Fuhrer as "Wolf" (the nickname used by his closest circle) - to leave no doubt about his feelings.

Incidentally, if anyone has news of Holborow, let me know. The last anyone heard, he was running a haberdasher's in Tenterden, Kent - a trade to which he was uniquely well suited, since at times of stress he spoke exclusively to a white, cotton handkerchief called Oswald (apparently named after Sir Oswald Nosely). A bottle of Champagne for any sightings in linens, curtains or, indeed, bedspreads.

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Seldom since L'Affaire Dreyfus has there been a miscarriage of justice like the one about which Esther Rantzen remains so stoical. Rantzen takes a solitary page in the Mail to describe the persecution that led to her conviction (three points and a £60 fine) for failing to stop at a pedestrian crossing. The copper, she tells us, was belligerent: "On a sunny day in June when talking to a middle-aged woman who's been caught driving at a snail's pace, there's no need to rebuke her as rudely as if she was a boy racer who'd nicked his neighbour's car." How very true. There was a time when Rantzen might have lectured us about good driving habits on That's Life, but, alas, these days she appears only on recherche cable channels advertising Accident Advice Helpline. "Have you been injured in an accident that wasn't your fault?" asks its website. "If so, you could be entitled to compensation." That's all very well, but actually knocking 'em down on crossings might be taking her loyalty to the firm that tiny step too far.

If the owners of the Toonami satellite channel, which force-feeds children Japanese cartoons, are contemplating deed poll, let them be consoled that it might be worse. Sympathies to an upmarket bathroom shop in Wigmore Street, central London. Tsunami must have seemed the perfect name at the time.

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The sudden departure of James Truman from his long-held post as Editorial Director of Condé Nast in America remains a mystery... although given the speed with which his replacement was announced, we can probably work it out. Certainly the appearance on the Vanity Fair website home page - one invariably devoted to glamour shots of celebs - of an advert for a set of gleaming carving knives takes on a faintly satirical tinge.

And so, finally, back to Glover, and rumours suggest that a leading publishing house has offered £300,000 for a compendium of the grudging semi-apologies that make his Spectator media column such a joy. The latest is a classic of the genre. Recently, Glover stated that the Financial Times sells 80,000 copies a day in the UK, a figure described as "wildly inaccurate" by its chief executive Olivier Fleurot, who corrects it to 134,450. While "very happy to set the record straight", Glover then amends this to 100,913 copies "at full rate ... I concede that this is more than the 80,000 I mentioned. Whether it amounts to a wild inaccuracy, I will leave readers to decide for themselves". Most gracious, as ever, and good to know that if he ever does launch his high-brow newspaper, The World, and I downgrade its true circulation by 20 to 70 per cent, he'll take no umbrage. Meanwhile, I remind Glover of the mantra that informs this and all self-respecting media columns: check the facts, check the facts and check them once again.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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