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.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
News
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
News
i100
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

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Financial Controller

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is a busy and varied role w...

Senior Business Development Manager

£60-70k fixed, double OTE uncapped: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Senior Bus...

Ad Operations Executive

30,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: My client is a global name within the ente...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style