Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Faith in the second coming of Jose

I find myself touched almost beyond endurance by the naivet of The Sun. For in no nativity play ever staged has a three-year-old gazed upon the baby Jesus with the wide-eyed faith lavished on Jose Mourinho's phantasmal candidacy for the post of England coach by Rebekah Wade. Day after day, while some smiled indulgently at the vision of the Portuguese manipulating the story for his own ends, Rebekah splashed with ever more breathless reports on how close he was to revisiting this mortal kingdom and saving us from ourselves. At one stage, she even lasered his face on to the FA building in Soho Square. At another, her front page suggested it was virtually a done deal.

Now, there are those, leading Professors of Journalism among them, who might question why The Sun so enthusiastically, but as it turned out prematurely, heralded Jose as the saviour of the England team. They might even have asked whether Rebekah's sports editor shared the suspicions held by others that Mourinho's interest was feigned to bounce AC Milan or Barcelona into hiring him, and if so whether he might have omitted to mention this to his editor.

Let them ask what they will, these pompous mortar-board-wearers. I see in this parable the very essence of the Christmas message ... that however grizzled and cynical, vicious and nasty we may become, the power of belief to invoke that childlike sense of wonderment about a higher being never dies. Bless her trusting little heart.



* ON THE same theme, as Noel Edmonds (to whom we'll return below) put it in the pop-up Santa card he sent me once, at this time of year it behoves us to lay hatred aside and seek out the good in each other. So we will not dwell on the business of Alan "I'm really not normally an aggressive guy, honest!" Davies, who bit a homeless man's ear for no apparent reason. As this column recently mentioned when inviting anecdotes to illustrate the point, Alan is fabled as an absolute sweetheart, and this incident is so out of character as to be meaningless.

* ALAN HAS no current plans, by the way, to go to Brighton and visit Ed Mitchell for pudding. Mr Mitchell is the former ITN newscaster forced into vagrancy by debt. How anyone who has mastered such an elusive skill as reading out loud could have come to this is beyond perplexing. But think on, Huw Edwards. Think on.

* WE ALL despise the metrocentric smugness of London-based hacks, so I was disgusted recently to hear myself asking a man who mentioned coming from Coventry if he knew my favourite columnist, Jon Gaunt. This notion that nowhere outside the capital could be bigger or more diffuse than Ambridge is demented, of course, especially in the case of a city with a population of 300,000. "Yes, I used to work for him in the 1980s," the artist replied, of a time when Gaunty wrote for TV and the stage (very successfully). And what was he like as a boss? "A total c***." I was that angry, I almost offered him outside.

* THE GOOD news for Gaunty fans is that he is about to take a one-man Q&A show on the road, bringing to mind Alastair Campbell's critically acclaimed tour, or possibly Alan Partridge's "audience with... " effort in the Travel Tavern. There is no word yet about the Gaunty tie-and-blazer-badge combination set, but that will come. "If you think I'm outrageous in print or on the radio, wait until you see me in the flesh," taunts Gaunty. "Come along if you think you're hard enough." Somehow I think we will.

* REGARDING THE desperate race for Gaunty tickets, the obvious reference point is the Led Zep gig. Thankfully, the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee chairman, John Whittingdale, was spared a foray into the black market, going as a guest of Rupert Murdoch enforcer Les Hinton, who is leaving Wapping for The Wall Street Journal. (Incidentally, I'd like Christopher Meyer to take this as my formal application for Les's vacated seat on the PCC). I worry about John accepting such largesse from our most powerful media company. Until now, he jealously guarded his reputation for impartiality (his media hero is Rupert Murdoch, he once said, while he has a record of antipathy towards the BBC). Foolish to endanger that now.

* A POIGNANT farewell to Patience Wheatcroft, formerly editor of The Sunday Telegraph, who is leaving journalism to concentrate on her pro bono work (almost 3,000 a day seems the going rate) as a non-executive director in the City. She will be missed, not least for a column which brought the much-needed flavour of the slightly precocious Wycombe Abbey lower-sixth-former parroting her High Court judge father's world view to the national press.

* BACK, FINALLY, to Noel Edmonds. If you haven't seen the Sky One trailer for the forthcoming Noel's Christmas Presents, in which he will nimbly avoid patronising those "who deserve the Christmas of a lifetime", I am on my knees begging you to look out for it. His expression of exaggerated piety when telling us he still believes in "the power of Christmas" is a marvel. I know it's the wrong season for banging on about resurrection, but the rebirth of this old Nolly festive staple puts the seal on the comeback to end them all. "It's like eradicating smallpox," as my wife put it when the trailer interrupted The Simpsons, "then bringing it back on purpose."

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