Matthew Norman's Media Diary

A ramraid on Paxo and Humphrys

If Sir Michael Lyons' appointment as chairman of the BBC Trust was a three-pipe mystery at the time, his first foray into public controversy suggests the urgent need for a ram raid on the meerschaum warehouse.

A majestically obscure economist and local government bod with no apparent interest in broadcasting, and no discernible qualification at all other than having been Gordon Brown's little helper on various commissions, Sir Michael takes umbrage at the expression of free speech within the BBC. "In most companies you would not have members of staff openly debating whether that company's strategy was right or not," he said last week, inviting Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys to hold their tongues about the horrendous job cuts in news and current affairs, which the director general Mark Thompson will announce on Thursday.

It's that "most companies" that seems so unwittingly revealing. Whatever the BBC is, it isn't most companies. It isn't really a company at all. It is a corporation with a unique tradition of stringent self-criticism, extending from the demented self-flagellation we have seen lately to allowing employees to criticise it as openly as they wish. If Sir Michael wants to pick a fight with the country's two most unsackable media figures by trying to compel them to use "internal channels" for their complaints, at least the man must have balls. However, if he tries to impose the mores of News International or McDonald's on the BBC, he must expect his staff to use external channels to ask in what possible way Sir Michael is a suitable person to protect the Beeb from the phalanxes of its enemies now attempting to damage it beyond recognition.

Doughtily maintaining their scandalised outrage over BBC misdemeanours, meanwhile, are the Murdoch titles. Yet, touching as it always is to find the News of the World risking altitude sickness by ascending to the moral high ground, I am a bit bemused by its front page of eight days ago. "Gordon Brown's plans for an early election were thrown into chaos LAST NIGHT," wrote Ian Kirby, "when he learned of the devastating results of a News of the World poll."

How weird. In fact, Gordon did his "no election" interview with Andrew Marr early on the Saturday, having decided on Friday night long before the poll was done. Either Mr Kirby failed to grasp the chronology, which is worrying for a political editor, or this was a deliberate attempt to mislead a loyal army of readers ... a minor deception by NoW standards, no doubt, and nothing next to the subterfuge over the naming of the Blue Peter cat, but a poor show all the same.

As for the Daily Mirror, perpetrator of the worst fraud ever committed by a British media outlet (the "spot the ball" competition without the ball), it too takes a firm line on journalistic ethics. So it was impressive on Friday to find the headline "Gord Still Ahead In The Polls" and the intro "Gordon Brown is still beating David Cameron despite his hellish week" above a story that just about steeled itself to mention that his "best leader" advantage over David Cameron was drastically reduced, and touched lightly on the Tories leading Labour by three points in that same Ipsos Mori poll.

Some of you may know the hideous sinking feeling you get when, having had a huge antepost bet on a race, you watch your horse take a six-length lead before it starts going backwards just a couple of furlongs from the line. Mirror editor Richard Wallace certainly will.

Richard should have studied the peerless work of Matthew Parris, the Cassandra of political commentators, in the spring. "It has become fashionable among some of my colleagues to murmur wisely that one must never underestimate the Chancellor," wrote Matthew in The Times on 19 May. "In my view it is urgently important not to overestimate Mr Brown. I don't believe in the Chancellor's hidden intellectual superguns, his great schemes and plans under wraps, or his lurking genius... His silence does not betoken strength; his immobility does not betoken carefully guarded plans. His curtness does not betoken honesty. His unyieldingness does not betoken valour. Mr Brown is the most spun politician of our era." As ever, different class.

I am saddened to learn, finally, that despite this column's tireless championing of his work, favourite columnist Jon Gaunt has been impertinent about me on his radio show (thanks to his TalkSport colleague Mike Parry, by the way, for appearing for the defence).

Although ingratitude on this scale isn't easy to take, the sort of woolly-minded, bleeding-heart, cheek-turning liberal instincts that Gaunty finds so irksome compel us to proceed with the serialisation of his memoir Undaunted (School of Hard Knocks Press, £4.99) as planned.

Today, we find him dwelling lyrically on the new girlfriend ("The Slag") of his widowed father ("a right bad tempered bastard"). "The Slag was everything Mum wasn't. She wore miniskirts, tight blouses and black bras that I used to wank over when she hung them on the line."

Delicious stuff. And yet, to the teenaged Gaunty's enormous credit, despite finding The Slag so intolerably vulgar, he and his equally effete brother Simon "told the old man she was great". Fans of Frasier will be deafened by the echo from Frasier and Niles's half-hearted efforts to mask their distaste for their widowed father Martin's brassy new girlfriend Sherry (Marsha Mason).

Next week, Gaunty and Simon come to blows over which is the greatest of the Château d'Yquems at the inaugural meeting of the Coventry Oenophiles Association.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

Guru Careers: Print Project Manager

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Print Project Manager is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living