Matthew Norman's Media Diary
Here's a great idea for a board game
Monday 13 March 2006
Let's say you're Tessa Jowell, and roll a five to land on a Community Chest-style space called the Sun. The card quotes David Blunkett, in his column last Thursday, attacking Labour MPs for being beastly to Ms Jowell. You must now outline as many of the Murdoch-Blair links behind the article as you can in 60 seconds, ending where you began.
I cannot overstate the paramount importance of circularity. I'll have a quick crack now. Ms Jowell is well loved at News Corp for reneging on a previous deal to keep live Test cricket on terrestrial TV after being lobbied by Mr Murdoch's son, James. Ms Jowell is famously close to Mr Tony Blair. Mr Blair in turn is so chummy with Mr Murdoch that he once tried to broker a satellite deal between him and Berlusconi.
Mr Blair is also friendly with the Sun editor, Rebekah Wade, a regular Chequers weekend guest. Ms Wade, like the PM, is close to Mr Blunkett, her drinking buddy on the night of his latest sacking, after which she plugged the gap in his post-Cabinet income with a column worth an estimated £80,000 per annum. In this column, Mr Blunkett rides to the support of Ms Jowell, who is especially well loved at News Corp having reneged....
There, a perfect circle. The game's rules and scoring system are matters for the specialists, but if anyone cares to discuss royalties I have hopes that we can get NewsGov into the shops in time for Christmas.
ALASTAIR DARLING probably won't feature as a plastic piece in NewsGov, being a key Brownie and likely Chancellor under Gordon. Even so the Transport Secretary was kindly treated in a Sun leader last week after unveiling a new road-safety Bill, with more draconian penalties for reckless drivers.
In the same edition, meanwhile, a two-page spread was devoted to Donna Maddock, the woman caught putting on make-up at the wheel, who featured posing in a skimpy top. Bizarrely, there was no mention in this sympathetic portrait of the Sun's triumphant "nail the dangerous drivers" campaign, as lauded just three pages further forward. Most odd. Then again, perhaps overkill can be almost as unpleasant as roadkill.
HATS OFF to Davina McCall for helping BBC1 to set a new record for low ratings. I suppose some might think this a disappointing performance, but there's nothing worse than mediocrity and no one normal would accuse Ms McCall of that. In principle, employing her as a chat-show host was an admirable thing to do: positive discrimination can, when carefully deployed, be a valuable tool of social progress.
Even so, if the BBC executive responsible would get in touch and explain him or herself, it would give you the chance to put your side of the story first, and save us the trouble of hunting you down. If not, perhaps a colleague would care to grass.
ON SIMILAR lines, we haven't forgotten the BBC3 series Tittybangbang ("seriously funny comedy"). The channel's then controller, Stuart Murphy, has coughed to commissioning this one, and when we do discuss the matter with him he can expect a sympathetic hearing. It's like a plea bargain, really. Something there for the lunatic responsible for Davina to consider.
BACK FINALLY to Son of PC Gone Mad!, Milanese catwalk doyen Simon Heffer's memoir of early life in Southend as the son of a beat bobby. We left the family in the electricals department of Primm and Proper, where Simon's classmate Julia Adams, who has a Saturday job at the store, has noticed the crusty patch on Simon's trousers (the result of a Thermos accident involving Dad's helmet while the Heffers slept outside in a communal sleeping bag to be first in line at the New Year sales).
"January 3, 1979 (pt 2): 'Hello Simon,' she said, "is that dried Oxtail soup on your crotch, or are you just pleased to see me?' Mam and me mouthed 'Saucy little minx' in unison (I'm sure we're psychic, but I don't like to say anything or she'll only start up about me bending the spoons again). 'Now, love, you're not to tease our Simon," laughed Dad, 'he'll blush the colour of a beetroot, and he's not got a great big helmet like mine to cover his shame.'
"Hardly worthy of Mr Humphries (not that Primm and Proper can hold a candle to Grace Brothers), but they both roared all the same. Then Julia asked what we were looking for. 'It's that hostess trolley in the window,' said Mam, 'the one with the double hot plate and the fake mahogany finish.' 'Oh yes,' said Julia, grinning like the cat that got the cream, 'that would look well in the dining room of the ancestral estate Simon's always banging on about.' 'You what, chuck?' said Dad. 'It's an estate we live on right enough, aye, but there's nothing ancest ...'.
"I didn't stay for more. I grabbed Mam by the arm and we both legged it. The hostess trolley can wait."
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