Matthew Norman's Media Diary
Hail Gaunty, defender of balance, impartiality and journalistic values
Monday 08 October 2007
Thank goodness, the uneasy wait is over at last. Undaunted, the autobiography of my favourite columnist Jon Gaunt, is finally published, and already a rousing testimonial has appeared in the national press. "It must be good," comments a certain Jon Gaunt in his Sun column. "Even the snobby Independent and my 'number one fan' Matthew Norman are hailing it as 'the most eagerly awaited memoir of the year'. Do you think he's trying to be sarcastic?" Why are these muscular right-wingers so prone to paranoia?
The Sun itself has extracted a short segment, in which Gaunty informs us that he only came to understand his antipathy towards his widowered father's girlfriend, affectionately known to him as The Slag, "years later when I was at university studying Hamlet". Indeed, as Gaunty reveals in a full-page interview in The Guardian, he went on to form a theatre company, winning an Edinburgh Fringe award for his play Hooligans. How he made the transition from neo-Pinterian playwright to popular shock jock is something to which we will shortly return.
For now it is Gaunty's impressive self-defence against the charge of stirring up racism that concerns us. "This whole thing about immigration and asylum, Labour are creating racism," he explains. "I'm fucking not a racist. But I'm a realist. I don't believe in the burka. Fuck you! If you come to our country, you shouldn't wear the burka. When we go to Saudi Arabia, Lisa [Mrs Gaunty] won't drive the car and she'll cover herself up." Why the Gaunties regularly visit that country is none of our beeswax.
The point is that by the tactic of directly equivocating between British mores and those of as mature and tolerant a democracy as Saudi Arabia – and it's deceptively clever – Gaunty annihilates his detractors. The serialisation of Undaunted begins here next week, but for those without the patience it can be ordered from Amazon, which by way of a striking show of retail confidence has already discounted the cover price by 50 per cent to an irresistible £8.49.
In the same interview, the reticent TalkSport presenter turns to his career. "I should be on Radio 5," says Gaunty. "I should be doing that show at 9 o'clock in the morning. Victoria Derbyshire's useless. In the interests of impartiality, balance and Reithian values, they should have me on." So they should. If Radio 5 Live – or 5 Dead as Gaunty so drolly renames it – employs Jeff Randall, who displays a determinedly Thatcherite world view in his Telegraph column, the BBC policy against using politically partial presenters (Melvyn Bragg was dropped from Start the Week on becoming a Labour peer) is clearly now seen as embarrassingly outmoded.
As for a fellow Sun columnist of Gaunty's, the rumour persists that Kelvin MacKenzie is openly campaigning to replace Ned Sherrin as presenter of Loose Ends. I think he would do it very well, with his refined artistic sensibilities. Only last week, Kelvin expressed his distaste for Ricky Gervais's stand-up comedy, which he found offensive (gags about homosexuality particularly distressed the author of the headline "Pulpit Pooftahs"), and which he likened to Jim Davidson's act from 20 years ago. Presumably with the Loose Ends gig in mind, Kelvin's has become even more highbrow of late. He hasn't made a joke about Heather Mills's missing leg for months, and last week limited himself to the one observation about the girth of Alistair Darling's wife, who he insists is too large to rise from a chair.
I am increasingly concerned that the Daily Mirror is starving the Prime Minister of the support he deserves. On some days now, there are as few as four page leads congratulating Gordon Brown on something or other, and barely a dozen references to David Cameron's upbringing. A sign of the paper's commitment to offering some vague kind of balance came in the savage attack on a conference speech praised elsewhere almost unanimously, the Mirror showing quasi-Kelvinian effeteness in its upset that Mr Cameron used the word "pissed" (apparently only posh boys swear on live telly, as the late Bill Grundy would confirm).
However, working-class warrior in chief Paul Routledge studiously avoids the lure of mindless caricature. "Old Etonian, silver spoon in his baby mouth, never done a day's graft in his life. He thinks he's born to rule," writes Routers. "It was all handed to him on a platter the day he was born ..." and so on. Perhaps one of our leading professors of journalism might advise whether any newspaper at any time has been quite so careful to avoid the charge of imbecilic cheerleading for a political leader?
Congratulations to the Bucks-based firm Mediahawk for a press release with an embargo that has thankfully now expired (you wouldn't believe the pressure of praying no one beats you to the punch). The document relates the findings of a survey as to which method of advertising phones works best.
The winner, reports a certain Harry Bott, the Bob Worcester of urinals, is a poster in a pub loo. "Men can store numbers in their mobile phone with one hand whilst urinating with the other one," writes Harry. "This is the surprising finding of a project by media monitoring company Mediahawk that analysed the response to a three-part advertising campaign."
Fans of pub drip-mats will be relieved that their failure to provoke interest isn't as worrying as it might appear. "Almost none of the drip mats had been put out," he explains, "because the pubs had kept them in stock until they needed them!"
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