Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Can you feel the love, Richard?
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DRAW A LINE under it, certainly. Move on, absolutely. Look to the future, yes of course. Now that it's been settled so tantalisingly close to the High Court, we must do all these things regarding the heart-rending tug of love for Richard Littlejohn between The Sun and the Daily Mail.

What we must never do, however, is fail to learn the lessons of history, and it's here that I wish to be of special help to the Mail editor Paul Dacre today. The thing about Richard that perhaps too few of us recognise is that, beneath the adorable swagger, he is the most sensitive of men. I hesitate to use the word queeny about a man who cannot let a paragraph go by without expressing his contempt for gay people, but blimey, does he ever need some cosseting.

The reason he left the Mail to return to The Sun a few years ago, he told a close friend, had nothing to do with money. He just felt unloved by Paul, the catalyst being the rejection of a piece he submitted upon the death of Diana. The reason he is making the reverse journey now appears to be the same: Rebekah Wade hasn't made him feel like the centre of her universe. So if the Mail's mannerly guv'nor is to hang on to him this time, he must make an effort.

Be a proper father figure, Paul. Ring him every time he files to say it's the finest copy in history. Take him to the park on Sundays and buy him a 99 with double flake. Send him flowers twice a week. In a hundred ways, show him you care. It's the only way, or he'll do the Kevin Keegan flounce back to The Sun in three years - and next time it might begin to lose its charm and freshness.

IT'S A MARK of Richard's delicacy that when I reviewed his debut LWT show a little harshly years ago, his chum Simon Heffer wrote to the Evening Standard to complain. Simon's loyalty extends to his family, of course, which brings us to this week's instalment from Son of PC Gone Mad, his forthcoming Alan Bennett-style memoir about growing up in Southend as the son of a police constable. Today's holiday excerpt concerns his first meeting with another self-styled Tory nob, "Colonel" Andrew Roberts, the finger-lickin' good historian whose father held a lucrative Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. "July 21, 1972, Mrs Miggins's guest house, Cleethorpes. A right kerfuffle when the oven caught fire just before high tea. Mam was in a state, but Dad held his nerve. 'Right Mam, no good moping here, we're off out for a bite,' he said. 'No, not a fish supper. We'll try that new chicken place.' Dad put on his helmet, and off we went. Mam didn't like the food much - 'Ooh, it's a bit spicy,' she said. 'It'll play merry hell with me innards,' - but Dad and I thought it very tasty. Anyway, there was this boy, Andrew, working the chip-frying machine, with the same Enoch Powell Rocks! T-shirt on as me! I think he's my new best friend!!!" Next week, the Heffers go to the Costa Brava for their first experience of fancy foreign muck.

FOR POSSIBLY THE first time since Alastair Burnet went to ITN, a newspaper editor transfers to a TV bulletin. It's Alastair Campbell, who will shortly take a sabbatical from his post as Editor Emeritus of The Times, where he oversees all political coverage, to guest-edit Five News. As garnering instant gravitas and underlining a reputation for strict impartiality, this seems an inspired move by the station. We wish all concerned the best of luck.

OVER ON RADIO 5 Live, Victoria Derbyshire continues to make the morning phone-in a daily delight. Since there is no chance of Saddam Hussein being acquitted, said Victoria, diving into the murky waters of jurisprudence last week, "what's the point of a trial?" Much as we all enjoy the devil's advocate thing, is there a danger of making the debate-provoking trailer that one iota too sophisticated?

EVEN MORE SPARKLING stuff on Midweek, meanwhile, with Joan Rivers and Darcus Howe (below left) having their screaming match. I trust that we'll be back to normal this Wednesday, with a chap who sold his business to sail the Atlantic in a washing-up bowl, the president of Britain's Lady Morris Dancers, and some nebbish who's written a humorous book on how to make a scale model of Milan's Il Duomo from toenail clippings. Let's hope so. The last thing we need is to reopen the quest for a more depressing 12-word sentence than: "And now on Radio 4, it's time for Midweek with Libby Purves."

CERTAIN TO BE a guest of Libby's early next year is her Times colleague Mary Ann Sieghart. Mary Ann's husband Dai has sold his business, and the pair are off with their two school-age daughters for a four-month trek through Central America and the Caribbean. This wouldn't have happened had New Labour rewarded Mary Ann with the peerage and ministerial job, or at least a few decent appointments to important committees. It's mangoes for Mary Ann, however, not quangos, and her absence will be a continual rebuke to an ungrateful government. Were I another Times figure on sabbatical, perhaps guest-editing Five News, the first thing I do is start a campaign to right this sin of omission.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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