Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

IT IS with genuine concern and fraternal sympathy that we turn to the vexing matter of David Aaronovitch and his anguish over Iraq. Of all newspaper columnists, the Times man has been perhaps the most hawkish, rigorously supporting the invasion and refusing to reveal the tiniest chink in his armour of self-righteous certainty. Others have succumbed to CP Snow's trusty counsel to the pundit who has made a bish on a major issue of the day (CP's precise advice, from memory, was "bite the bullet, and say: 'I dropped a right bollock on this one'"). But not David, whose doughty effort to hold the line has even extended to a bold comparison between Saddam and Hitler.

Last week, however, saw what leading professors of journalism believe to be the first chink. In an article directed at his Times colleague Matthew Parris, who recently wrote: "Nobody seriously now thinks the invasion was a good idea...", David offered an apology of sorts, although it's hard to be sure whether he modelled it on Basil Fawlty's ironic self-flagellation following the O'Reilly building fiasco or Hirohito's surrender speech ("the war having developed not necessarily to David Aaronovitch's advantage..."). Disregarding the embittered tone, the question seems to me that of whether columnists, however grand, are significant enough in a global context to dwell at length on their own misjudgements. Some will think that they are. Others may suspect that apologies for geopolitical disasters, even heavily sarcastic ones, are more properly the preserve of the world leaders responsible for them. Are readers frantically concerned with David's ego being bruised by Matthew Parris? Perhaps they are. Even so, a feeling in my bones suggests that the only thing now required from David, on the matter of Iraq, is a prolonged period of silence.

ON REFLECTION, I think I'll ask my friend Peter Riddell, the bucking bronco of The Times, to take David under his wing. Although still young himself and prone to schoolboy howlers (you will recall the recent front-page disaster, when he misinterpreted a self-evidently rogue poll to suggest a Tory leadership win for David Davis), Peter is a two time winner of the Thin Unpompous Columnist of the Year award from the University of Nebraska. Just the man to have a go at persuading David to stop taking himself quite so seriously.

AND SO, at last, to the latest extract from Son of PC Gone Mad! (Virago, £17.99), Simon Heffer's rite-of-passage memoir of growing up as the son of a Southend beat bobby. Today, we join Simon on his 17th birthday, during his brief flirtation with punk rock. "July 17, 1977: I knew it wasn't going to be easy when Mam and Dad came in first thing with a present. 'It is what you wanted, our Simon?,' said Mam. 'You did ask for a Space Hopper.' Of course I didn't (a pogo-stick is what I asked for; I knew I should have written it down), but I didn't want to upset them. 'Oh yes, Mam,' I said. 'I love it.' 'Champion,' said Dad, 'in that case we'll take it to London to buy your punk-rock outfit. You can ride it into that Vivienne Winkworth's shop.' After a fruitless hour trying to cram the wretched thing into the Austin Princess, Dad strapped it to the roof-rack and off we went. We must have made quite a spectacle, even for Miss Westwood's boutique, when we arrived, Mam pushing her shopping trolley as if she was in the Co-op, Dad wearing his helmet with that canary-yellow tracksuit Nana Heffer gave him for Christmas, and me bouncing along on my bright orange Space Hopper. Just how I'd dreamt of meeting my idol Sid Vicious, who was at the counter, cussing at Malcolm McClaren!"

When we return in the New Year, a misunderstanding persuades Simon that Sid has invited him to join the Sex Pistols as the band's new harpist.

DEPRESSING NEWS from Downing Street that John Birt is to abandon his incalculably important work as Tony Blair's top-ranked blue-skies thinker, in favour of a position in the City. It is, of course, for future historians to appraise the full extent of his lordship's contribution to government. For now, though, it seems safe to predict that his major legacy will be the bespoke staircase built at immense cost which enables him to reach his office without having to share a lift with lowly civil servants. He will be gravely missed.

WITH THE future of Radio 4's Midweek questioned by Andy Kershaw and others following the scrapping of Home Truths, it's good to find presenter Libby Purves in fighting mode. When the show sparked into something approaching life with that spat between Darcus Howe and Joan Rivers, Libby complained to a journalist at the Daily Mail over the use of a "dishonestly edited transcript" (it omitted a barely audible attempt by Libby to force Darcus to disown his accusation of racism against Joan).

Curiously, the repeat of Midweek, broadcast at 9.30pm on the same day, also went out in incomplete form. Libby's "I have great sympathy for both sides," had gone. So had Joan's incredulous, "Both sides? Then you are a racist... Don't you dare call me that, you son of a bitch." Doubtless this poignant echo of The Brains Trust was cut for reasons of space, but, nevertheless, Libby might be more careful when next she feels tempted to accuse others of dishonest editing.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Chelsea are interested in loaning out Romelu Lukaku to Everton again next season
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Account Manager, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

Sales Executive, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series