Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Rupert's kids play generation game
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The Independent Online

I find it extremely hard, to be honest, to comprehend why the children can't get on with the old boy when you consider what a thoughtful and caring father he has always been. Elisabeth once told Tatler how,as a young girl, when the family lived on a Home Counties farm, she was besotted with a pony. One day, the animal vanished, however, and a distraught Elisabeth asked where it was. Not to worry, darling, Rupert reassured her, I've given it away in a News of the World readers' competition.

And to think he might have sent it off to the glue factory. What a sweetheart he is, and we pray that his adult progeny realise this before things get seriously out of hand. The last thing anyone would want when he goes is a ferocious legal battle over the will - on similar lines to the one anticipated over Sir Paul McCartney's will when he takes the long and winding road to the next life - between one generation of his children and another.

NO ONE will be more distressed at the departure, meanwhile, than the Sun editor Rebekah Wade, a world-class schmoozer who cultivated Lachlan with unusual vigour. Still, life goes on, and Rebekah busies herself with the moving campaign to free Michael Shields, the football fan convicted of attempting to murder a Bulgarian barman with a paving slab. I hope no one takes a cynical approach to this. The notion that the paper would synthesise its empathy just because Shields is from Liverpool, where The Sun remains so desperate to claw back circulation lost over Hillsborough, is too grotesque to dignify with a rebuttal.

Alas, things took a worrying turn last week when the barman positively identified Shields as his attacker, but should the campaign fail, there is another way that she might build bridges with the Scousers: by sending her husband Ross Kemp, that noted Shakespearian, on a tour of Merseyside theatres to reprise the Petruchio that delighted provincial audiences not so long ago. Even if the idea did originate in the editor's office at the Daily Mirror, as is widely suspected, this is no time to dismiss it on purely tribal grounds.

SPEAKING OF the Mirror (and, after the fashion of my colleague Stephen Glover, I must declare an interest: that newspaper gave me the boot a while ago), has anyone heard a whisper about legal problems with Gary Lineker? Last Tuesday, beneath the Wildean headline "Gary Slimeker", the Mirror devoted page three to a topless snap of Gary on a beach, juxtaposed with a similar shot from two years ago, the gist being that Gary has lost weight since 2003. The rather more bulbous love handles, however, clearly show that he has in fact put on the best part of half a stone. Generally, such a weird, misguided puff for a celeb indicates a desire to avoid a trip down the Strand. If anyone knows anything, please get in touch.

INCIDENTALLY, YOU wonder if more might be done by the two titles to synchronise their front-page headlines. "Got The Bastards" (Sun) and "Got Them" (Mirror) were the individualistic takes on the terrorist arrests, while Thursday's message from the al-Qa'ida number two also provoked a confusing difference of opinion - "Get Back In Your Cave" (S) and "Why Don't You Crawl Back Into Your Cave" (M). Market distinction is undoubtedly important. But in troubled times like these, would a little more unanimity of thought be such a terrible thing?

I AM startled to see that Radio Five Live's year-on-year audience figures have dipped by 6.7 per cent. The official line is that this is due to the one-sidedness of the Premiership title battle won by Chelsea, and that's good enough for me. It certainly can't have anything to do with such dangerously challenging morning phone-in topics as, "Can it ever be right to sack someone for something done in the workplace?".

IT SEEMS my friend Huw Edwards, the bashful BBC newsreader, may be less thick-skinned than we imagined. A colleague of his reports once sending Huw a very courteous e-mail correcting his mispronunciation of a leading dictator's name. Huw responded that this was "the rudest e-mail" he's ever received, and that he'd take lessons from "Bush House types" only when they stopped mangling Welsh names. (Doctor Who fans will be reminded of Russell T Davies' typically brilliant self-parody of Welsh hypersensitivity at being ignored by London types in "Boom Town", the episode involving Margaret Blaine, the Slitheen Mayor of Cardiff.) Anyway, Huw then misdirected to the same person an e-mail intended for someone else, describing his correspondent as "effing rude", and in need of being told where to get off. Doubtless this was ironic in intent, and we won't countenance another word on the matter for at least seven days.