Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Time for Tony to begin a new chapter
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The Independent Online

Now that the end is near, it's surely time for a rapprochement between Tony Blair and those of us in the media who have at times found the old rascal hard to love. We begin the process of reconciliation today by considering the PM's memoirs. Understandably, a couple with a respect for money will wish to cash in, and this of course means selling the book to Rupert Murdoch. With huge US sales guaranteed, current market valuation is between £10m-£15m. However, if Blair can arrange for Murdoch to snaffle Five in the next 12 months, HarperCollins would go to £20m, or even higher.

Now that the end is near, it's surely time for a rapprochement between Tony Blair and those of us in the media who have at times found the old rascal hard to love. We begin the process of reconciliation today by considering the PM's memoirs. Understandably, a couple with a respect for money will wish to cash in, and this of course means selling the book to Rupert Murdoch. With huge US sales guaranteed, current market valuation is between £10m-£15m. However, if Blair can arrange for Murdoch to snaffle Five in the next 12 months, HarperCollins would go to £20m, or even higher.

As for who should ghost it for him - a necessity, alas, given that pompous literary convention about books requiring the odd verb - the solution will be obvious to anyone who read last week's surreal Sun interview, in which the Blairs boasted of the size of his penis and his sexual stamina - deliciously winsome stuff that reminded commentators of Winston Churchill (even if, sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar). Considering this Blairite penchant for self-glorifying soft porn, it seems indecently convenient that Alastair Campbell again has time on his hands. You will need no reminding of Ali's early career with Forum, in which he appeared both as the Riviera Gigolo and a trans-European, bagpipe-playing busker. For as little as £250,000, Ali would be thrilled to take a sabbatical from his present occupation (sitting at home staring at the disconnected Downing Street phone).

As for the title, I offer two choices. One is the line with which Tommy Docherty began his first after-dinner speech after being done for perjury: Now I Know You're Not Going To Believe A Word I Say. The other, with that Sun braggadocio in mind, is Big Boy Blair: Going On And On And On (Desmond Press, £35). Other suggestions most welcome.

RETURNING BRIEFLY TO last week's item about the prizes that the PM's most loyal newspaper chums might expect in his resignation honours list, pro-war Observer editor Roger Alton has complained bitterly about his exclusion. "For years, all you've been able to see of me is the soles of my shoes," Roger points out, "dangling down from the Prime Minister's backside. I must deserve something." Roger's quite right, and grovelling apologies to the future first Duke of Farringdon.

I ESPECIALLY ENJOYED two things in last week's media section - the interview with the noble Lord Bell, one- time public-relations homeboy for Mrs Thatcher; and the feature on important media figures with criminal convictions. On the off chance that any media student has been given the assignment of melding these two items by way of a Venn diagram, I remind you that Tim Bell himself was once convicted himself (of masturbating visibly from the bathroom window of his Hampstead home). Still, that was in those crazy Eighties days when he was single-handedly funding the urban regeneration of Bogota and Medellin, long before he chose the Scrunched-Up Kleenex Rampant as the centrepiece of his heraldic crest.

HE HAS TAKEN out the Autons and overseen the suicide of the last Dalek in the cosmos, but one enemy that the Doctor cannot handle is the BBC censor. In fairness, the superlative two-part story about the Slitheen, a family of flatulent intergalactic mercenaries planning to provoke thermonuclear war and sell off the planet as radioactive fuel, was pretty rich in political satire. There was, for example, a wry reference to the Slitheen being able to launch a strike against Earth in 45 seconds. However, a shot of a newspaper headline including the term "sexing up" was thought too inflammatory during an election campaign, and was duly excised.

IS THERE ANY cuter operator in television today than the restaurateur Luke Johnson, son of Paul, who moonlights as chairman of Channel 4? C4 insiders are convinced that Luke's harsh words last week about Piers Morgan and Amanda Platell's show - a most eccentric attack from a figurehead who is supposed to stay far above such ranting - was a clever attempt to secure its future. And it seems to have worked. I gather that in the light of Luke's attack, my cousin by marriage Kevin Lygo, the station's operational boss, has decided to recommission the programme.

SINCERE THANKS TO Simon Heffer, the Milanese catwalk model who earns pin-money by entertaining readers of the Daily Mail. In an insecure world, thank God for the unchanging point of reference that is Simon's persistent analysis of Tory failure - the party's wilful refusal to be adequately right wing. No amount of electoral defeats can shake his faith, and we look forward to reading this timeless classic of an article - when oh when oh when will the Tories abandon their slavish adherence to the hateful orthodoxies of the centre left? - once every four years until 2033.

A REBUKE, FINALLY, to John Humphrys. All this talk of quitting Radio 4's Today programme must stop forthwith. Unless and until we have a written constitution, he and Paxo will remain the last two cornerstones of British democracy. Humpo, you're going nowhere for a very long time indeed.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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