Matthew Norman's Media Diary

England expects Mel to do her duty
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The Independent Online

FOR A MOMENT there, as Butch says to Sundance a second before the entire Bolivian army opens fire, I thought we were in trouble. So thank God that the renowned climatologists of Fleet Street spent last week assuaging the fears of those alarmed by the scaremongering of people who base their global-warming predictions on nothing more solid than decades of studying the subject.

Almost every paper has some genius who, through a mystical process of osmosis, has come to know more than the world's leading scientists, and my pick of the bunch is that scientific titan Melanie Phillips. It was Mad Mel who championed the theory about the MMR triple jab causing autism, and she who continues to propound it to this day despite every major clinical study published since having discredited it absolutely. Small wonder, then, that her confidence remains absolute. Next to a Daily Mail leader remarking that "the overwhelming scientific view is that global warming is a terrifying threat we cannot ignore", Mel informs us that the science on which Professor Stern based his report is "flakey", bravely citing the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in support.

Spend a couple of hours on the IPCC website, as I did, and you may be tempted to wonder whether it and Mad Mel really are in accord, or whether she is rather naughtily manipulating the caveats all responsible scientists make about all long-term projections based on immensely complex data. Be that as it may, this piece establishes Mel as an even more important thinker on the subject than her colleague Tom Utley, the Archimedes du jour who dismissed concerns about melting ice caps raising sea levels by pointing out that when the ice in his G&T melts, the liquid doesn't spill over the top of the glass.

In the unlikely event that such experts should ever be proved wrong, we trust that Mad Mel, Tom and the rest will remain in London as the Thames barrier is swept aside, showing the same heroic intransigence as Admiral Horatio D'Ascoygne, who went down with his ship, still saluting as he glugged his last, in Kind Hearts And Coronets.

ELSEWHERE IN the Mail, the serialisation of George Walden's book, eerily well entitled Time To Emigrate given last week's emigration figures, distresses me greatly. Having insolently referred to Gerald Kaufman as "a smirking nonentity", George continues: "All anyone knows about Kaufman is that he's a film buff who's spent half his life alone in a cinema watching Singin' In The Rain. No one knows why any normal person would do that, though everyone understands why he would be alone."

This is not only uncalled for, but misleading. It's true that Sir Gerald, a former chair of the Commons culture and media select committee, likes the movies, but as my rapidly deserting army of disloyal readers is well aware, his real love is musical theatre. Reports that he was seen at the stage door of Dirty Dancing last week terrifying younger cast members by maniacally waving his autograph book are unconfirmed, but he is known to have auditioned recently for Potiphar in the Batley and Spen Operatic Society's forthcoming revival of Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. As ever, we wish him well.

WITH THE PROPOSED relocation of large chunks of the BBC to Manchester now in doubt - sorely underpaid director general Mark Thompson (£630,000 per annum) is manoeuvring to use a less-than-desired licence fee increase as an excuse to renege on the commitment - corporation staff are showing contempt for their proposed new home. Workers at White City are insisting that the suburb in which they may end up is Sal-ford, as in Sally, Sally, Pride of Our Ally. Whereas, of course, it is Sal-ford, as in Saul Bellow. Manchester is a city simply bursting with energy, but one thing they are by no means mad for is soft southern ponces who mispronounce local place names. Mr Thompson, who is expected to announce the sale of his elegant Oxfordshire home in favour of a suite at Manchester's equally elegant Britannia Hotel any day, will want to stamp out this metrocentric nonsense forthwith.

MORE EXCITING news from reality TV. The noble Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare has been signed up by ITV as a panellist on a forthcoming gem called Million Pound Giveaway, a blatant rip off of Dragons' Den in which Jeffrey and colleagues will decide which applicants are worthy of their financial support. Anyone wishing to present themselves as the founder of a new Kurdish charity, or perhaps as a lone operator with a business plan involving bespoke private entertainment in the Shepherd Market area of London, should apply in the usual manner.

READERS MAY recall last week's introduction of the feature Journalistic Namesakes, inspired by news of the appropriation of the writer Heather Mills's identity by Lady McC. This week our thoughts turn to Michael Heath - the fabled cartoonist "Castro" whose work graces this page - as we read news of an urgent review of verdicts based on evidence supplied by one Dr Michael Heath, a pathologist so discredited that one can't understand why Mad Mel hasn't rallied to his cause. Other suggestions are still welcome.

OUR HEADLINE OF the week is from the current edition of the magazine Nature. "Proterozoic low orbital obliquity and axial-dipolar geomagnetic field from evaporite palaeolatitudes", this runs. The sub-editor responsible for this snappy composition (translation: "Earth was once a giant snowball, rocks reveal") is now the subject of a ferocious bidding war between The Sun's Rebekah Wade and Richard Wallace of the Daily Mirror.

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