Matthew Norman: BBC brickbats and bouquets


Hard as it was to love any of the main protagonists in the War of Jonathan Ross – a battle that echoed the 1986 and 1990 World Cup finals between Germany and Argentina, the sadness being that there had to be a winner at all – it did throw up a myriad of peripheral heroes.

You'd need an Iliad-length epic poem to chronicle the endeavours of them all, but we must restrict the awarding of medals to a chosen few. To Charles Moore, whose refusal to pay his licence fee since the Andrew Sachs phone calls may now be poised to end, goes the Rosa Parks Memorial Bus Pass.

Charles's sudden conversion to civil disobedience – a cause to which he was less committed during his heroine's Poll Tax riots – mingled valour, martyrdom and a keen sense of perspective. That fearless director-general Mark Thompson collects the David Miliband Yellow Cross. Faced with two choices – supporting the talent or sacking him – Mark bravely traversed the third way by hiding beneath his desk and waiting for him to fall on his sword. If only Gordon Brown shared Jonathan's sensibilities, Mr Miliband would be in Number 10 today.

And to Sun TV editor Colin Robertson goes the bronze His Master's Voice lapdog for as perceptive a piece of media commentary as these pages have acclaimed. "Since he thrust his way into our living rooms as the host of Channel 4's irreverent The Last Resort," writes this vicious foe of cliché, "he had us rolling in the aisles. And now it's all over ... The PC-obsessed BBC has had the last laugh. And there's nothing funny in that."

Indeed not. It's a tragedy that, rather than listen to the pleas of Robertson and his colleagues to treat the Sachs foolishness and the outlandish salary as internal matters rather than moral issues of grave national import, the BBC succumbed to the madness of political correctness instead.

The scoop everyone had

As for Colin's Daily Mirror counterpart, to her goes the prize for Jonathan Ross Scoop of the Decade. All too rarely does the word adorn the Mirror these days, but with such a story, who could resent the appearance of "Exclusive", in large red capitals, on Friday's front page? How every other title managed to get the tale of the broadcaster jumping before being pushed into their first editions, who can know?

But if it wasn't a case of computer hacking, the suspicion must be that a senior Mirror executive sold it to rivals. A top level internal enquiry is required forthwith.

A taste of grim reality

I am distressed to find shards of reflectiveness piercing Melanie Phillips's shell of simplistic certainty. In pursuit of a Radio 4 show (the second part goes out today), Mad Mel spent time in north-eastern areas of urban deprivation, and quite an eye-opener this proved. Mel discovered – and do try to suspend disbelief – that the poor and jobless aren't necessarily feral wastrels and feckless scroungers after all.

"It's all too easy to pass judgments when you are a journalist on a comfortable income, tapping out opinions on a computer," wrote MM in the Mail. "What I found was in many respects somewhat chastening. I met people ... who were struggling to get a job in places where there was precious little work to be found."

Who knew? Now she's developed this taste for travel, and while her mind remains at least ajar, some smart documentary maker may wish to take MM to Gaza to put her delicately nuanced opinions to the test over there.

Highway patrol

Seldom since that Irish newspaper told Herr Hitler to "be warned, the eyes of the Skibbereen Eagle are upon him" has a leader avoided the lure of idiocy like the Mirror's of Friday. This gem dwelt on a transport offence committed by David Cameron's strategy director Steve Hilton – not the arrest for losing his rag at a railway station, but for cycling through red lights and mounting the pavement.

"Yet again the Daily Mirror has caught a senior Tory breaching traffic regulations and compromising the safety of other road users," it thundered. "Mr Cameron may be convinced of his own suitability to be the next PM, but such apparently trivial incidents tell a much wider truth." Oh, but they do. If there's one thing that might stay the reluctant voter's hand as it hovers over the ballot paper, it's the memory of someone they've never heard of being nabbed by Fleet Street's top ranked highway patrol.

Keeping up with La Jones

This week Liz Jones has mostly been teasing Kate Moss for her inability to pull decent men. Supply your own commentary at will.

Where's Portillo?

With one of the age's great broadcasting scandals resolved, finally, it's time for the BBC to address the other. We're just not seeing and hearing enough of Michael Portillo these days. I've no idea if it's cock-up or conspiracy, but apart from The Moral Maze, This Week, Great British Railway Journeys and the rest, Polly has become a stranger to the airwaves.

Admittedly at the time of writing he was expected to join Tony Green in the commentary box for yesterday's version of the world darts final (the one for men who aren't very good at darts), and there are rumours that he has been providing holiday cover for the Radio 4 news pips. But now more than ever it is important that he is utilised to the full, if only to offer Miliband Major hope that a lucrative media career awaits those who can never quite decide whether or not to oust an ailing PM.

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