Matthew Norman's Media Diary
It's another own goal for David
Monday 12 June 2006
WITH ALMOST 10 months to go until that elegant ceremony is held, I'd like to be the first to nominate David Blunkett for Columnist of the Year at the 2007 British Press Awards. Each Wednesday, David appears in his drinking buddy Rebekah Wade's Sun (you will recall that the two had a few in the hours between his last sacking and her domestic with husband Ross Wade). It's always a cracking read (his recent bafflement at the release of foreign prisoners, more of whom vanished under his Home Office aegis than anyone else's, was a gem), but David surpassed himself last week with a subtle expression of ersatz jingoism headlined: "Get behind our flag, be proud."
Having doughtily defended the cross of St George against the "politically correct clowns" who disdain it, and made a vibrantly original point about "the educational ninnies who think the very idea of winning will damage those children who lose", he rallied Sun readers - always reticent about expressing their World Cup loyalties - to the cause. "Losing simply isn't an option," writes David, deft as ever at sidestepping the cliché. "And as the late Bill Shankly said: 'Some people think football is a matter of life and death... It's much more important than that.'" Some people think that trotting out that quote has seemed a little dubious ever since the catastrophe at Hillsborough, and perhaps they have a point. Still, what with being born and bred in Sheffield, representing the city as an MP and being a lifelong Sheffield Wednesday fan, one hardly expects David to be especially sensitive to the feelings of those few people in Liverpool who still take The Sun.
* I AM dangerously excited by the debate about Andrew Marr's hair. Andrew wrote in The Daily Telegraph that he has ceased washing it, to allow the natural oils to replenish themselves, remaining as fragrant as ever. While this is great news, it presents an obvious dilemma. On the one hand, one can't get enough of Andrew's intimate reflections - personally, I'd like to see him move on eventually to his pubic hair - so touch wood there's more to come on the subject. On the other hand, Andrew is fondly remembered at this newspaper for the care and concern he showed staff during the continual job-cutting that attended his editorship. There's no reason why he should show such empathy to strangers, of course, but there must be people at the Pantene factory having sleepless nights. Entirely his call.
* NOW THAT Andrew has ruled himself out of the Desert Island Discs job, Martha Kearney is the clear 15-8 favourite, with David Dimbleby second best at 13-2. Bracketed on tens are Jeremy Vine, Fi Glover, Kelvin MacKenzie, Eddie Mair and Soo from Sooty and Sweep, while Chris Evans and Celeb BB's Maggot are on 12s. The week's market-mover is Professor Stephen Hawking, in to 100-6 after a large each way bet was taken at a BetFred on Merseyside, and it's 20-1 bar those.
* I AM distressed to find two DID outsiders attacked by John Fortune, author of a film script about the Equatorial Guinea coup plot involving his acquaintance Simon Mann. Fortune was in bed a couple of years ago listening to Today, he recalls in the Telegraph magazine, when he heard the news. Then, so he claims, he drifted off into "a delightful dream in which I'd chosen three Radio 4 presenters to be tied in a sack with some hungry ferrets and thrown into the sea." One was a gardening chap, but the second was Nigel Rees, presenter of my favourite quiz Quote... Unquote (750-1). The other, would you believe, was Libby Purves (125-1) of Midweek. As if that weren't insult enough, Fortune concludes the piece by musing as to whether he'd rather be sitting on the concrete floor of a Harare prison cell, like Mann, "or here, where I am about to hear Libby Purves. It's a serious question." He does plump for his own bed in the end, but only because he can turn the radio off. Poor taste.
* GOOD TO see the US military in Baghdad showing off the photographs of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which later appeared in so many newspapers, at press conferences last week. Once this story has died down, perhaps it's time for the Western media, led by the Americans, to resume the attacks on al-Jazeera for being bloodthirsty by broadcasting pictures of corpses.
* A SLICE of history in the Daily Express. On Friday, beneath a World Cup story by Harry Harris, appeared the words: "In association with Samsung Mobile". This sort of line often adorns columns, but this was seemingly the first ever sponsored news story. Harry is close to one Mark Mitchinson, a PR for Samsung, and whatever the deal might be - all his World Cup expenses taken care of, perhaps? - hats off to him for breaking new ground.
* FINALLY, RICHARD Littlejohn seems at last to be settling on his return to the Mail, judging by one item last week. Richard recalled how a few years ago, in his Nabokov-influenced novel To Hell In a Handcart, he wrote scenes in which squeegee-wielding asylum-seekers used fake traffic lights to trap drivers and pester them for money - a ruse now reportedly being deployed exactly as he wrote it. "You couldn't," he ended, "make it up." But you could, Richard, you daft old goat. You could make it up, and you did make it up. You said you did, for Christ's sake, in the same bloody piece. You. Made. It. Up.
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