Matthew Norman's MEDIA DIARY
Good old Huw, pulling out the stops
Monday 24 July 2006
IT IS with nothing short of awe that we discover yet another string to the splendiferous bow of my friend Huw Edwards. Not content with reading, writing, producing, directing, editing and filming the BBC News at Ten, servicing that dodgy drinks machine by the gents and so on, Huw recently launched an initiative to reignite respect for the disregarded chapels of Llanelli.
I say "recently" more to disguise the fact that I'm almost four months off the pace than as an expression of the literal truth, the campaign having been launched in April with a trilogy of columns in the Llanelli Star. Sadly, I only have the first two, but excellent they are, not least for a picture of Huw at an organ shot from above and at an angle to make him look even more soulful than ever.
It transpires that Huw is an accomplished organist (he not only plays the music, but writes and arranges it, repairs the organ...), performing on the instrument for several years at the now demolished Lloyd Street Chapel. It was then that his love of religious buildings and history appears to have been forged. "Tell someone today that the Baptist Union of Wales and Monmouth had chosen to visit Llanelli for its annual meeting in 1928," he writes, "and you might get a shrug of indifference, or worse." The smart money's on worse, but we'll let it go. "But let's be clear. This was a very big deal..."
Huw even intends to publish a book on chapels, and he appeals to readers to track down old photos and send them not to himself (don't you understand, he's a very busy man); but to his mother, whose home address the Llanelli Star helpfully provides.
And if you have the missing third article, send it forthwith. Concluding the second, Huw trailed that "next week I'll be talking about my own tribe - the Calvinistic Methodists. And the Wesleyans. Or should I say the Presbyterian Church of Wales? The mystery will be solved next week." If the mystery isn't solved for me at once, I think I may have a breakdown.
FOR JIM Naughtie, meanwhile, the gloves have come off at last. Last week's ferocious interview about the Middle East on Today with poor old Margaret Beckett, so befuddled now she'd have to be played by Liz Smith in the biopic, marked a significant breakthrough for Jim in his battle to dissuade cynics of his extreme independence from the governing party.
Jim insists that when, during the last election campaign, he referred to Labour by the personal pronoun "we", this was no more than a slip of the tongue. I now believe him, so not another word on the matter.
ALL RIGHT, just a few more words on the matter, merely to observe that some suspect that criticism following the recent love-in with Jack Straw goaded Jim into it. If so, there's an excellent precedent. In late 1990, after Nigel Lawson left her Cabinet, Margaret Thatcher agreed to go on the great Brian Walden's LWT show to explain herself ("un-ass-eh-la-bull. My Chancellor was un-ass-eh-la-bull...") and in the run-up to the interview, print journalists dwelt on how Brian had veered towards the chivalrous with female subjects in the past. He duly dished out arguably the most savage kicking in the history of the political interview, even mentioning that many of her backbenchers regarded her as "a nutter", and certainly contributed to her demise. The two had been friendly for years, but after she joined him in the green room for a post-mauling Scotch, she never spoke to him again. So Jim, if you had pencilled in a week's caravanning this August with Margaret and her old man, best make other plans.
SPEAKING OF Brian Walden, I am astonished to hear that some oaf at Radio 4 had failed to recommission A Point of View, his typically captivating 10-minute mini-lectures on issues of the day. Of this we take the dimmest conceivable view, and if someone at the station would care to snitch on the person responsible, the persecution will begin forthwith.
STILL NO proper editor at The Daily Telegraph, where John Bryant, the Mr Chips of national newspapers, plods on in the headmaster's chair. Lovable old trouper though he is, this damaging drift can't be tolerated for ever, and the good news is that Simon Heffer remains confident about his prospects of finally getting the editorship he so richly deserves. Whether the Tory house bulletin actively requires an editor determined to fight a war with David Cameron at this point in the electoral cycle is debatable, but that's not the point. The important thing is that Simon appreciates the truth of the old saw that it is better to travel than to arrive, and we wish him well.
FOLLOWING LAST week's bombshell concerning a top-level police investigation into my comment page piece about parking tickets, I am pleased to announce that the case is closed.
After a reader's complaint, PC John Wright of Manchester was obliged to consider whether my suggestion that broken pay and display machines should be lopped off with an axe and thrown through the windows of unattended tow trucks constituted incitement to commit criminal damage. However, the Greater Manchester Police press office have rung to report that no further action will be taken, and PC Wright may return to the less irksome duties that go with pounding the Moss Side beat.
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