Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Why I'm with the delusional idiots
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The Independent Online

AS SO OFTEN, the trenchant prose of David Aaronovitch leaves me bruised and chastened. David's latest lecture concerns the delusional idiocy of those who, like the satirist Armando Iannucci in a recent Tate Britain lecture, think that modern politicians aren't entirely trustworthy, and that a pliant media fails to scrutinise them properly.

Perhaps this is the time to place his thoughts in some historical perspective. Before the invasion of Iraq, David examined the Government's case for war with rigour, before concluding that it was watertight, and even now he reacts with condescending fury to any hint that perhaps it wasn't quite so splendid after all.

I'm not sure whether Iannucci specifically had in mind how so many newspapers swallowed and regurgitated the WMD fantasy peddled by David's Times colleague, Alastair Campbell. But only The Sun gobbled it up as greedily as The Times itself.

Just as David still defends a war seemingly disowned by President Bush himself, so The Times continues to report all governmental woes from the viewpoint of Downing Street ("Police claims over loans for honours attacked by No 10" was Friday's helpful headline).

For a decade, the Thunderer has acted as New Labour's house bulletin, so maybe David should try to forgive delusional idiots such as Iannucci and myself for questioning the media's role in allowing politicians to get away with telling whoppers.

Indeed, had papers such as The Times, and commentators such as David - and he's not such a bad boy, really; his loyalty to his old London Weekend colleague Peter Mandelson does him credit - shown more gumption in denouncing the Bernie Ecclestone affair a few months after Labour won in 1997, you wonder whether the ensuing climate might have scared Tony Blair off committing any alleged crime over the selling of peerages.

* SPEAKING OF WHICH, I am slightly spooked by the resemblance of John Yates, the detective leading the inquiry, to my old friend Nicky Campbell. More precisely, Yates's face suggests the love child of Nicky (who, so ably supported by sidekick Shelagh Fogarty, the Ernie Wise to his Tommy Cannon, continues to infuse Radio 5 Live's breakfast show with such mirth) and that other sublime comic presence, William H Macy.

* REGARDING THE TV show, "I'm a Celebrity...", several of Fleet Street's First Ladies chip in their twopenn'orths. Our own Janet Street-Porter, such a lively jungle presence last year, rebukes the Daily Mail's Amanda Platell for claiming to have been offered a berth, doubting that Amanda would even have made the short list, while The Mirror's Sue Carroll cites herself as the only woman columnist not to be approached. But this year's real story is, of course, the late withdrawal of Melanie Phillips.

* Mad Mel had signed up for a fee believed to be slightly less than David Gest's £150,000, but pulled out because of a scheduling clash with a forthcoming Celebrity Stars in your Eyes, on which she will intone the words: "Tonight, Cat, I'm going to be... Lene from Aqua!" It was to be Toni Basil's cheerleading standard "Mickey", apparently. However, bovvered by allegations of plagiarism after Catherine Tate's Lauren performed that recently, she switched to Aqua's 1997 plastic- dolly classic "Barbie Girl" - a longtime favourite, as you know, with which she often enlivens Paul Dacre's mannerly Mail conferences. We wish her all the best with that.

* NOT EVEN MAD Mel, who tends to equate any questioning of Israeli foreign policy with the early days of the Wehrmacht, has managed this yet - so, well done Kelvin MacKenzie for finding anti-Semitism in the Borat movie. Writing in The Sun, Kelvin urges the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to consider a race- hate prosecution. Rather than lazily dismiss this as Kelvin succumbing yet again to political correctness gone mad, on the paltry grounds that highly observant members of the Orthodox Jewish community (Sacha Baron Cohen is what's known to some of us as "quite the frummer") tend not to be rampant neo-Nazis, let's congratulate Kelvin for caring so much. Indeed, given his status as a leading shariah scholar - you will recall his brilliantly incisive Koranic point about how a good Muslim starving in the desert is permitted to eat the meat of a passing pig - he strikes me as the perfect person to build bridges between the Islamic and Jewish communities.

* WRITING BEFORE THE event, I cannot state for certain that Huw Edwards didn't appear in the Children in Need James Bond spoof involving BBC news personnel. But since his name doesn't figure in the pre-publicity alongside such other talented readers-out-loud as Fiona Bruce and Dermot Murnaghan, it's probably best to fear the worst. If so, we will hold an urgent inquest into the omission- one theory insists that Huw said that he would become Wales's second 007 only if he could write, direct, edit, produce and direct the sketch as well as star in it - and hope to report back next week.

* I AM MOST taken with the inclusion in Saturday's Guardian of a free car-bumper sticker reading: "Yes, This Journey Is Absolutely Necessary". Needless to say, in this most ovine of industries, others already plan to nick the idea. Richard Desmond has ordered a sticker for every full-price purchaser of the Daily Express (67) with the words: "Yes, Prince Philip Absolutely Did Assassinate Diana". As for The Times, next Tuesday's edition will come with a free sticker bearing the beaming face of David Aaronovitch above the legend: "Yes, This War Is Absolutely Spiffing!"

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