Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Is this a new chapter for Boris?
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The Independent Online

WHATEVER WE think of Boris Johnson - and strike me pink, it's a struggle at times not to succumb to a certain fondness - let no one accuse him of failing to cover the bases. God knows what schemes he's hatching to back the winner in the Tory leadership election, and so return in glory to the front bench, but elsewhere the old rogue is frantically guarding his back.

WHATEVER WE think of Boris Johnson - and strike me pink, it's a struggle at times not to succumb to a certain fondness - let no one accuse him of failing to cover the bases. God knows what schemes he's hatching to back the winner in the Tory leadership election, and so return in glory to the front bench, but elsewhere the old rogue is frantically guarding his back.

However precarious his hold on the Spectator editorship, he retains the power to hire, and to this end he not long ago took on Andrew Gimson as the mag's "roving reporter". Mr Gimson, also the Daily Telegraph's parliamentary sketch writer, is a talented chap, so we'll ascribe to Jungian synchronicity the fact that this same Andrew Gimson is researching a biography of that same Boris Johnson. We wish him well with the project and look forward to a merciless number after the style of Michael Crick.

When not roving for dirt on his employer, meanwhile, Mr Gimson has been commissioned by Boris to write a profile of Paul Dacre, the mannerly and fiercely private editor of the Daily Mail. If Boris conceived this as a mechanism for revenge on Paul for his paper's extensive coverage of his erotic adventures (and frankly this seems an unduly cynical theory), he may wish to reconsider and brief Mr Gimson to be as kind to Paul as he will doubtless be to Boris himself in the book. Should dear old Andrew Neil give him the bullet, Boris will urgently need to make up the dosh. Burning all bridges with as lavish a potential employer as the Mail may not, you strongly suspect, be the Johnson way.

EXACTLY HOW lavish an employer, you may wonder? Paul Dacre has just rehired the lovely Richard Littlejohn (in whose Sun slot Boris cropped up on Friday as holiday relief; wheels within wheels within wheels!) at a salary believed to be £3.5m over three years. Nothing wrong there, of course, and while he is hardly to all tastes it would be idiotic to deny that Richard is a circulation banker with a vast following among those eager to disembark the handcart currently transporting us all to hell. Even so, if and when Richard treats Mail readers to a polemic on the evils of fat cats, touch wood he's wearing his irony hat at the time.

MEANWHILE, ONE of Richard's ex bosses cements his position in polite society. There was a time when former Sun editors cut unlikely candidates for the gentlemen's clubs of Pall Mall. Kelvin MacKenzie, for instance, would have needed a slice of luck to sidestep the black ball at Boodles. David Yelland, however, is now a member of the Savile, and we hope he has better luck there than at Soho House, to the front door of which he was once escorted after a sudden loss of motor control propelled his hands towards the bodies of passing waitresses.

RADIO FIVE Live's genius for challenging and stimulating debate shows no sign of fading. Last Tuesday, the day after the BBC industrial action, that excellent broadcaster Julian Worricker was obliged to host a phone-in entitled: "Do strikes ever achieve anything?". It's an exquisitely finely balanced question, of course, but I couldn't stick with it. So perhaps someone might let me know if at any time during the subsequent 57 minutes, the words Lech and Walesa were dredged up?

SOLIDARITY PROVED tantalisingly beyond the reach, alas, of Five Live breakfast show co-presenter Shelagh Fogarty, who turned up for work last Monday. We wouldn't ordinarily indulge the crosser of a picket line, but special dispensation is granted on the grounds that the temptation to anchor a show alone and without Nicky Campbell for once would have proved too much even for Mick McGahey. As it turned out, the programme was scrapped anyway. But no harm in trying.

AN EXCITING addition to film channels available to Sky subscribers has been launched. Bad Movies is the work of (among others) a certain Ashley Faull, and I plug it here not solely because Mr Faull is my parent's next-door neighbour, and will wish to return this kindness as he sees fit; but also because it's an inspired idea, appalling movies being so much more enjoyable than all but the very best of them. That's Channel 339. (No CCs or cheques accepted).

IMPORTANT NEWS, finally, of Ross Wade (Ross Kemp as was), who will soon return to EastEnders in the Chekhovian role of Grant Mitchell. Although welcomed by the tabloids, especially The Sun with whose editor Ross happens to share a surname, it does give rise to concern. There is, as Ross told the Telegraph's Jan Moir last week "more to me than being a soap actor", and it would be a sadness indeed if the comeback proved anything more than a very brief hiatus from Ross's promising career as a Shakespearian actor, or his ambitions to become an MP in the New Labour interest.

The last thing we'd want to observe five years from now is that Albert Square's great gain was both The Globe's and parliamentary democracy's most grievous loss.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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