Matthew Norman's media diary

Honourable members of the press
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The Independent Online

THE TIME HAS come to anticipate the PM's resignation honours list, and how it may affect leading newspaper figures. In recent years, sad to say, the process has become devalued. When such outstanding and independent-minded journos as Simon Jenkins and Max Hastings are given knighthoods, it makes you yearn for the days when honours were given only to the most crawling of media chums.

So in a bid to kick-start the process of restoring the greatness of old, here are a few suggestions for Mr Blair to ponder on Friday as he turns his mind to that crucial exit strategy. Apologies to fans of rival groups, but they are rather dominated, as you'd probably expect, by News International. A damehood, it should go without saying, to Times columnist Mary Ann Sieghart, whose support has been unwavering, but finding a seemly reward for her editor Robert Thomson won't be easy unless Mr Blair revives hereditary titles. We'll touch on Mr Thomson's heroic service below, but on current form a dukedom would barely cover it. As with his fellow Aussie Trevor Kavanagh, the soon-to-depart political editor of The Sun, a life peerage will have to suffice.

Also up for the ermine is Trevor's boss, Baroness Wade of Chequers (Rebekah is thought to favour, for her title, the place where she spends most of her leisure time). On Friday, her ladyship's first leader, on the Attorney General's war advice, was headlined: "In the clear". Absolute genius.

Leaving Wapping, we come to a disgracefully overdue peerage for Mirror Group chairman Victor Blank. His likeable editor Richard Wallace will have to wait for his knighthood until 30 seconds after Gordon takes over, when we may also look forward to greeting the noble Lord Routledge of 'Ole In Middle of T'Road (Luxury). We may touch on other deserving cases next week, if anyone can be bothered to send nominations to the address above.

BACK BRIEFLY TO Robert Thomson, not merely a dapper and delightful fellow, but arguably the most courageous maverick the world of news judgement has ever known. As Stephen Glover examines in greater depth in his column, Robert continues to cleave to the loneliest of paths over Prime Ministerial embarrassments. Although the Times's front page on Friday touched lightly on the A-G debacle, the news report on a topic deemed splashworthy by more naive rivals was quite a way off. Page 35. We'll have that once more, for bingo fans. That's three and five, thirty five. The last time his rivals splashed on the legal advice issue four weeks ago, Robert put his report on page 31. At this rate of progress, or regress, Robert may well have to jettison the racing page the next time the Attorney General scandal rears its hideous head.

EDGING CENTRE STAGE for a moment, it's been a difficult week. I've spent many hours trying to contrive a crushing dismissal of a point tartly made in The Sun's political/media gossip column The Whip, about the conflict of interest which prevents me dwelling on the sensitive new owners of the Telegraph group, but I can't. Bang to rights seems to cover that one. As for The Catholic Herald, its editor-in-chief mentioned, at the launch party for Hywel Williams' warmly recommended Chronology of World History, that following a comment piece about the new Pope, my face now adorns the office dart board. No word yet from The Tablet, but since its editor Catherine "Pepsi" Pepinster is known to be flirting with the unorthodox theological teachings of Cardinal Peter "One Dart" Manley, it can't be long now.

SOMETHING PECULIAR, even by his own standards, is happening to Andrew Neil. Not content with that excruciating Amarillo spoof at the start of BBC1's The Week, Andrew's dementedly upbeat delivery on the show suggests he is mutating into Tony Blackburn. If he hasn't bothered with the hair weave by now, it's a bit late to expect that method of impersonating his broadcasting hero. Even so, if I were Michael Portillo, I'd be getting a bit nervous about being bumped off the sofa in favour of Arnold the dog.

THE MOST ROUSING hats off ever to Matt Born of the Daily Mail, who last week produced one of the biggest upsets of all time to win his heat in a Party.Poker tournament shown live on the new Poker Channel. Given that his opponents included two of the world's best pros (Gambling Gus Hansen from Denmark, and the former pawn shop owner from Hull, David "Devil Fish" Ulliot), references to Buster Douglas beating Tyson seem inadequate. High-stakes poker is precisely the image fun-loving Mail editor Paul Dacre craves for his title, and a Mail-sponsored gala dinner for Matt at the Savoy Grill must be imminent.

A FOND FAREWELL, finally, to Eamonn Holmes as he departs GMTV. Whether he'll ever find an equivalent intellectual challenge again - "What is another name for the Academy Awards?", a prize question once asked, "Is it, A) The Oswalds, B) The Oscars or C) The Olives? - one has to doubt. But we wish him all the luck in the world as he begins the quest.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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