Matthew Norman's media diary

Any odd jobs for an odder man?
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The Independent Online

This is the most gruelling test this column's professionalism has known, but somehow the strength must be found to anticipate the demise of a much-loved friend. Reports that John Birt is advising the abolition of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport... well, you can see where this one's heading. Should Birt succeed - and his strike rate as Tony Blair's Head of Grey Skies Thinking has been superb so far - what's to become of Gerald Kaufman? It is only his splendid stewardship of the relevant select committee that gives any meaning to Kaufman's career, so one cannot overstate the damage were it to vanish. "It would be the psychological equivalent of a bereavement," is what Dr Raj Persaud would probably say if asked. "It's hard to see how a man of his age could recover." So there it is, as confirmed by a leading mental health specialist. The tragic irony is that Birt and Kaufman should be as brothers on this, driven as both are by a virulent hatred of the BBC. There are even hints that Birt's maste

This is the most gruelling test this column's professionalism has known, but somehow the strength must be found to anticipate the demise of a much-loved friend. Reports that John Birt is advising the abolition of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport... well, you can see where this one's heading. Should Birt succeed - and his strike rate as Tony Blair's Head of Grey Skies Thinking has been superb so far - what's to become of Gerald Kaufman? It is only his splendid stewardship of the relevant select committee that gives any meaning to Kaufman's career, so one cannot overstate the damage were it to vanish. "It would be the psychological equivalent of a bereavement," is what Dr Raj Persaud would probably say if asked. "It's hard to see how a man of his age could recover." So there it is, as confirmed by a leading mental health specialist. The tragic irony is that Birt and Kaufman should be as brothers on this, driven as both are by a virulent hatred of the BBC. There are even hints that Birt's masterplan is inspired by his failure to persuade the PM to destroy the licence fee. But I won't give the time of day to such a venal rumour when we face the urgent problem of finding Kaufman a substitute. His failure to win the Dick Van Dyke role in Mary Poppins (the producers thought his Old Bamboo a bit wobbly) casts doubt on a pro career in musicals. And while begging on the streets has some appeal (Sherlock Holmes fans will recall The Man with the Twisted Lip), the streets of his native St John's Wood haven't been safe since he called Ariel Sharon a war criminal. I am currently preparing a full CV for him, and hope to include it next week. In the meantime, anyone with a berth in a business or household (the role of surrogate grandpa may appeal) for a twinkly eyed 74-year-old may contact us in the strictest of confidence.

* One who may well be on the streets soon is that high priestess of penury Rosie Millard - although which particular streets will depend on which of her various homes she happens to be inhabiting at the time. Millard's revelations about her poverty draw a mixed reaction, and she addresses this in the New Statesman. "I didn't realise I was on the nursery slopes of a mountainous story," is the understatement, "when I wrote what I hoped was a vaguely funny piece in The Sunday Times about my cashpoint card not working." Well, we can all hope, love. Hope's the only thing that keeps us going when we are forced to borrow from one of the nannies to settle up with Ocado. What the answer is I'm not sure, but if she isn't attracted by a profession even older than confessional bleating in Sunday papers, there is a way out. Rosie is nothing if not fecund, having 27 children under six at any one time, and a healthy newborn will fetch up to £400,000 on the international baby market in Brazil. Just a thought.

* In The Spectator, meanwhile, it's great to note Taki back on form. Ever since Andrew Neil moved in, there's been a dearth of overt racism in his column (not a single "Sambo"), but this week he struck back. He reports that when Prince Charles (presumably wishing to reward the person with a box of Duchy oat cakes) asked who had mugged him, Taki said: "They were the kind of people you would like to see more of in the Guards." Charles' remark that he'd love a whole brigade of black guards drew this from Taki: "He is, poor man, obviously politically correct, but then he's not likely to be mugged, is he?" That's much more like it, and we look to Neil to confirm that, whatever he means by wanting to "drag the magazine into the 21st century", jettisoning this wittiest of erstwhile cocaine importers is no part in it.

* I have as soft a spot for Jim Naughtie as the next chap, so I trust he won't take offence at a suggestion. Listening to him interview Charles Kennedy on the Today programme, hmming and sighing away in those brief but infuriating intervals when Mr Kennedy took the liberty of speaking, one sensed the frustration. So, in future, wouldn't it be more sensible to ask party leaders to interview Naughtie? The man has so much to say, and I for one would like to hear it.

* This is excruciating (it's a betrayal of everything I hold dear), but I must mention the luminous brilliance of Radio Five Live's drivetime combination of Peter Allen and Jane Garvey. Best radio double act ever.

* We began with an old friend in need of new work, and so we must end. A leaked memo nudges Alastair Campbell back towards centre stage, and suggests a career move to rescue him from a post-election slump gazing forlornly at that disconnected No 10 hotline from his Ma Bates-style, kitchen rocking chair. "They have several papers," wrote Ali of Tory press supporters, "led by the vile (interestingly an anagram of evil) Daily Mail..." Well, it is interesting, isn't it? Even more interesting is a proposal to Channel 4 (let's face it, Countdown is getting on a bit), for the daily Anagram Show with Campbell. Here's an interesting one to whet the C4 appetite. Dam as a Sneak. And here's another. Teg Smoe Trapehy.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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