Matthew Norman's Media Diary

My deep respect for their lordships
Click to follow

For Lord Maxton, who accused Humpo of failing to show due respect to politicians, no praise seems adequate. As humble John Maxton, he enjoyed a spectacular career as Labour MP for Glasgow Cathcart, which peaked in 1983 when he stood for the shadow cabinet and received very few votes.

He then embarked on the now familiar journey from fiery socialist to New Labour peer, and if that doesn't demand the hushed respect of interviewers, then nothing will.

Certainly, his fabled uncle Jimmy Maxton, the Clydeside unionist, and leader of the Independent Labour Party, would thrill to see his nephew clad in ermine today. As for fellow committee member Lord Kalms of Dixons' Exorbitant Extended Warranty Scheme, I cannot imagine a public figure more firmly committed to an independent media.

When he was merely Sir Stanley, I once promised readers that I would treat them to the story of how I so nearly became his stepfather, only a last-minute loss of nerve preventing me proposing marriage to his mother, Cissie (who was a close friend of my late grandmother Bessie).

Sir Stan's response was dynamic. If this appeared in print, he told the editor of the relevant newspaper, he would withdraw all advertising for Dixons, PC World and The Link from that day forth until the end of time.

IS THERE ANYTHING smugger on TV today than the annual festival of masturbatory self-regard that is the BBC's Wimbledon coverage (watching tennis is infinitely better on the radio). As for the incessant moaning about Sharapova, Venus and the rest grunting to the decibel level of a 747 at maximum thrust, if the BBC wants to imbue its tennis broadcasting with the blimpish tedium of pink-gin-sodden club bores plapping on about how the young 'uns today don't know they're born, the head of sport should do the honest thing and replace John Inverdale with Peter Alliss.

TREMENDOUS NEWS from the Sun, which is hiring former editor Kelvin McKenzie as star columnist in succession to Richard Littlejohn. Kelvin's work is sure to be hilarious, and we wish the sub-editor assigned to the page the best of luck in communicating the updated style guide to him. This is just a guess, but I'm not sure "pulpit poofters" quite cuts it any more.

I AM EVER more concerned for the stability of that self-effacing titan of the autocue, Huw Edwards. Huw has been in a flap for weeks, lest his journalistic genius be ignored in the rumbling row over newsreaders' inflated salaries, and even last week's admiring item here about his work as external examiner at Cardiff Journalism School failed to assuage his fears. In fact, if anything, the paranoia is worse than ever. He has now taken to e-mailing begging letters to Andrew Marr, pleading with him to mention in his Daily Telegraph column what an immensely serious journalist he is.

Huw, Huw, Huw, chill out. We all know that you're the incarnation of Ed Morrow, and if you happen to express your unique talent by sitting behind a desk caked in three kilograms of slap, saying: "And now over to Mark Mardell at Westminster", no one thinks any the less of you for that. Now do stop bleating.

DOES ANYONE KNOW anything about Marcus Evans, whose £800m bid for Trinity Mirror's three national titles was rejected last week? The home page of Marcus's eponymous event-organising company's website carries a quote from Aristotle: "All men by nature desire to know." By his own nature, however, the reclusive Mr Evans desires no man to know a thing about him. On the off chance that he has another crack at the Mirror, any information to help us judge his fitness to own newspapers would be most welcome.

FIRST OUT THE traps in the race to pay respects to that adorable sweetheart Richard Whitely was the woman of whom it is often said that she cares, if anything, too much. Esther Rantzen first met Richard, she told Daily Mail readers, when she appeared in Countdown's Dictionary Corner. "I had been a fan of the show since I first saw it and I was daunted ... It was an intellectual show and I didn't know if I'd be up to it." Och, the modesty of the woman. Yet, if Esther was intimidated by the challenge of repeating words whispered in her earpiece by the Scrabble experts backstage and delivering them as her own ... well, I can't speak officially for C4 overlord Kevin Lygo, my cousin by marriage whom I've never met; but I suspect this lack of confidence rules Esther out of the running to become Countdown's new presenter. Not that her mini-obit was any sort of job application. The very thought.

GOOD TO SEE Boris Johnson at the wedding party of mutual friends last week. Boris greeted me by shaking his fist (hard to tell how ironical, if at all, the gesture was), and it's important to know that, should Andrew Neil ever remove him as editor of The Spectator, he'll find work impersonating Inspector Blake ("Ooooh, I 'ate you, Butler!) from On The Buses.