Matthew Norman's Media Diary
Monday 06 December 2004
Every time I read an article about the Blunkett saga in
The Sun, I hear
Bridge Over Troubled Water, in the tones of Rebekah Wade, playing in my head.
Every time I read an article about the Blunkett saga in The Sun, I hear Bridge Over Troubled Water, in the tones of Rebekah Wade, playing in my head. "When you're weary, feeling small/ When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all"...
Day after day, the flame-tressed editor mops the Blunkett cheeks with the sturdiest Kleenex. "David Blunkett must be feeling very bruised today," began a leader last week, while Mrs Quinn lay in her hospital bed fearing the premature birth of her baby. "Mr Blunkett deserves sympathy. He does not deserve to have an outstanding political career destroyed by a vindictive woman who led him up the garden path."
If Blunkett held a powerful position in national life, such as a member of a boy band, the term "love rat" might have had a run out in a paper that tends towards the censorious with those who bed other men's wives three months into the marriage. So what explains it? Let me state, first of all, that this tendresse for a key Blair ally has nothing to do with rumoured ambitions of Rebekah's husband Ross Wade (Ross Kemp as was) to become a Labour MP; let alone to personal loyalty to the Blairs, whose Chequers weekend guests the Wades so often are. Nor is it some kind of payback for Blunkett's past eagerness to co-ordinate his attacks on asylum-seekers with The Sun. As for the notion that Blunkett has ingratiated himself with Rupert Murdoch, this would suggest that Ms Wade is little more than her proprietor's best-paid public-relations operative. Quite ridiculous. Just for once, can we not abandon the sneering, and celebrate a truly principled editor? Is that so much to ask? So, sail on Titian hair, sail on by, your time will come to shine.
* Like Rebekah Wade, the Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has been a regular dinner companion of Blunkett for years, yet he has been among those leading the way in breaking the story. Paul, and we of the bleeding-heart- liberal media, seldom see eye to eye, but sometimes there's nothing for it but to observe that the Mail is the most lethal media weapon in the war against ministerial misdemeanours. And now, having rinsed the mouth out with Imperial Leather, commiserations to Paul's elder son James, who has failed in a bid to succeed the ex-BBC chairman Christopher Bland's boy Archie (such fearsome dynasties we see before us...) to become editor of Varsity, the Cambridge University magazine. Chin up, son, your time will also come.
* Among the more startling interventions into the Blunkett affair was the one from John Sergeant, the matinée idol of ITN until his recent retirement. On Question Time last week, John declared that he has met Mrs Quinn twice, "and I have to say, I thought she was trouble". Emboldened by the gasp from the audience, he reprised this observation soon after. You can only wonder what glories John might have achieved if only he weren't so riven by self-doubt.
* Chipping in his twopenn'orth on the issue, meanwhile, is my so-called rival Stephen Glover. He begins his Spectator media column by revealing a deliberate decision not to talk to either Mrs Quinn, the magazine's publisher; Mr Blunkett; or their representatives. Knowing Stephen's passionate commitment is to the drudgery of research - he makes The New Yorker's most obsessive fact-checker look dilettante - such self-restraint must have come at a terrible price.
* The genteel image of publishing suffers a grievous blow as rival houses sprint to bring out biographies on the same obscure figure. Having spent five years working on The Wit in the Dungeon, his life of the poet/journalist Leigh Hunt - a friend of Keats, Byron and Shelley, and later of Dickens - and with the book due out next spring, Anthony Holden was surprised to find Random House cheekily advancing the publication date of the Romantic scholar Nicholas Roe's Fiery Heart: The First Life of Leigh Hunt to 20 January. Rushing out an academic biography is quite a novelty, and Ursula Mackenzie at Little, Brown isn't having it. In a tough, no-nonsense counterstrike, she has brought forward the publication date of Holden's opus to that same 20 January. Meanwhile, the Canadian scholar Michael Sinatra is doing it his way, with Routledge due to publish his Hunt biography in September. Isn't that always the way, though? You wait 150 years for a biography of Leigh Hunt, and then three of them come along at once.
* Undaunted by the Galloway defeat, The Daily Telegraph takes another lurch upmarket. The cover of The Telegraph View, a mini-mag showcasing highlights from "Britain's bestselling quality newspaper", is devoted to Eva Herzigova ("Hello Again, Boys") leaning on what looks like a giant snowball in a red bra-and-pants combo. Next month's cover girl will be Jordan, who will be talking to W F Deedes about landmines, the volatility of Ukrainian politics, and Peter Andre's opposition to the fox-hunting ban.
* Back, finally, to Blunkers, and the vexing question of privacy. Following the PM's insistence that ministers are entitled to a private life, however messy, we anticipate Alastair Campbell drumming the point home in The Times. If Ali cares to explain, on Mr Blair's behalf, how this philosophy ties in with his phone call to Robin Cook, allowing him the time it took to reach the Heathrow check-in to choose between his marriage and his job, so much the better for us all.
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