Matthew Norman's Media Diary

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The Independent Online

British newspapers are often regarded as spiteful, carping things, yet there are times when common decency demands we lay aside the rancour and celebrate one of our own.

British newspapers are often regarded as spiteful, carping things, yet there are times when common decency demands we lay aside the rancour and celebrate one of our own. The emergence of Robert Kilroy-Silk as a political leader is just such a case. Other press folk have made their mark in politics - Lord Beaverbrook, then owner of the very Sunday Express for which Robert writes such a thoughtful column, sat in Churchill's cabinet - but he may yet surmount them all. Indeed, in the days since his defection from UKIP to form his own party, political historians have already come to see him as our most impressive right-wing ideologue since Roderick Spode founded the Black Shorts. But it is another literary figure with whom Robert invites comparison. He plans to call his new movement Veritas, and with such venerable analysts as Anthony Howard and Alan Watkins going mad trying to work out the inspiration, I'm pleased to be able to help. The last would-be political leader to launch a party with a Latin name was Mary Shepherd, better known as Miss Shepherd, but best known as The Lady In The Van. She was the old girl who spent her last years in a trailer parked first outside Alan Bennett's North London home, and then in his back garden. In the 1980s, Miss Shepherd informed Mr Bennett that she'd be standing at the next general election under the Fidelis banner. If the aims and beliefs of Fidelis tended towards the vague, touch wood the precedent stretches no further. Even Alan Bennett's patience might not survive the arrival of a camper van containing Robert Kilroy-Silk outside his house in Camden Town.

* Mention of rightist ideologues brings us naturally to Kelvin MacKenzie, and his ITV vehicle (in this case, sadly, a hearse) Vote For Me. This auditioned wannabe MPs over a week, finally selecting as its parliamentary candidate an ex-con with views on race to make Kilroy look like a militant version of Darcus Howe. Even Kelvin seemed embarrassed, and you wonder if it's now time for him to do what show winner Rodney Hylton-Potts advises members of ethnic communities, and leave Blighty for good. He already has a place in France, but after such a fiasco, even that seems too close for comfort. I've always seen the Cape Town suburb of Constantia as the dear old chap's ideal retirement venue, and it may be that Mark Thatcher's looking for a quick sale at a knock-down price. Worth a thought, at least.

* My thanks to Private Eye for confirming last week's item, in light of the Daily Mail's searing rage towards Prince Harry, about Mail on Sunday executives attending a 1992 party dressed as Nazis. In strict truth, I wasn't absolutely sure that I remembered all the details correctly, so it's a relief to see the them repeated elsewhere. It's come to something when you rely on Private Eye as your fact-checking service, of course, but there it is and I'm grateful all the same.

* Speaking of journalistic accuracy, we reluctantly return to my so-called rival media pundit, Stephen Glover. The weekly apology in his Spectator column goes to The Guardian (last week it was the FT, whose circulation he unilaterally slashed) over a leader about the bank robbery in Belfast allegedly done by the IRA. Every time Stephen trots out one of these apologies, invariably laced with a self-serving sweetener or some pious self-justification, he lets the Spectator down, he lets the Barclay Brothers down, and he lets the entire guild of media commentators down. Most of all, of course, he lets himself down. Stephen, I don't want to tell you this again ... DO. SOME. WORK!

* Then again, at least Stephen does make apologies, of sorts, when needs be, which is more than we can say for the Daily Telegraph sports section. For the last fortnight, Mihir Bose has been rubbishing this newspaper's reports that Kenneth Bates was poised to buy Leeds United. This was duly confirmed on Thursday night, yet oddly it appeared in Friday's Telegraph not as a page lead or even as a story in its own right, but tacked on at the end of another report about Chelsea, and even then downgraded from a done deal to ongoing discussions. Poor show.

* I am intrigued to hear that Mark Kermode, a regular on Newsnight's Late Review but primarily a film critic (he joins the Most Reverend Simon Mayo on Radio 5 Live each Friday), may be a beneficiary of deed poll. Mark, whose teddy-boy hair and fixation on schlock-horror movies firmly establish him as the Pauline Kael de nos jours, was apparently known to the roll call of his north London school as either Mark Fairy, Mark Faery, Mark Fairhy, Mark Faerhee or Mark Fairee. If anyone has precise details, or better still a birth certificate, please pass them on.

* A vignette of the reality TV age from Celebrity Fit Club. Starring alongside darts titan Andy Fordham in the current series is Lizzie Bardsley, who came to the nation's attention as the peculiarly unlovable mother on Wife Swap, earning herself the Homeric epithet "foul-mouthed benefits scrounger" in the red tops. Since then Mrs B has been on enough reality shows to establish herself as the underclass's answer to Brigitte Nielsen. When she turned up for Celebrity Fit Club, she arrived with her PA.

* Finally, a request to editors of all print and broadcast media. A total news blackout, please, on Ellen MacArthur. It's the only way she's ever going to stop.

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