Matthew Norman: Bloggers, lend me your smears

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The Independent Online

In journalism, as elsewhere, the ability to hold one's nerve underfire is a rare quality, and must never be allowed to pass uncommended. So a rousing bravissimo to Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror for staying so calm following his exposure as an apparent potential piston in the Damian McBride/Dolly Draper smear machine.

The revelation that he attended one of Damian's Downing Street meetings "in a private capacity" has attracted the usual sneering, with rival bloggers (and what a fraternal little world that is) questioning this concept. What cobblers. So private was the likable Kevin's capacity that he never mentioned it in print before the story broke, and has yet to give an account on his Kevin & Friends blog.

What he has done there, in an entry headlined "Spare Us The Hypocrisy", is reveal that ordinary folk like his drinking pals on Tyneside are more concerned with real problems than Westminster tittle-tattle... a thrillingly original line he underpinned with this: "And just what is the truth of Cameron's alleged embarrassing complaint of a highly personal nature? I, like the drinkers in the Steamboat... would like to know. Now, what do you think ..." His readers were eager to let him know with 339 comments, one is in his favour and the others ... well, you need to read them yourself for the full horror.

Suffice it to say that on perusing them, less sturdy souls would have emigrated to a cave in the Hindu Kush. But not Kevin, who was all over the airwaves last week, ritually introduced as a reputable hack, where he respected his own privacy as well as Mr Cameron's by declining to flesh out the details of that fictitious STD.

There is currently a vacancy for a No 10 communications director. From memory I can't recall whether any Mirror political supremo has ever officially crossed that flimsy dividing line between journalism and propaganda before, and if so how it panned out. But precedent isn't everything, and the next time Kevin attends a covert meeting in Downing Street it ought to be in a very public capacity indeed.

Partisan cheese

As for the Mirror's post-Budget leader "Oh, Cam ... That's Rich", this did a bang up job in ridiculing Mr Cameron's "Fleet Street pals" for their displeasure at the new top rate of income tax.

Some decent points were made here, not least that Obama is doing something similar, but the best was saved until last. "Britons deserve honesty," it concludes, "not misleading propaganda". How true that is. How very, very true.

Will Michael Jackson make the Grade?

Michael Grade's seemingly enforced early retirement as overlord of ITV seems a shame, if less so than his abrupt departure from the BBC for the impossible challenge of rescuing the commercial network. TV executives with balls and imagination are an endangered species, and with his departure close to extinction. Still, someone has to succeed him, and according to the first show of betting it looks a close race. Ladbroke's install former C4 guv'nor Michael Jackson as a lukewarm 100-30 favourite, with erstwhile BSkyB chief exec Tony Ball next best on 5-1. Bracketed on 15-2 are perennial big job bridesmaid Malcolm Wall, IRA bandstand bomb equine survivor Sefton, and internal candidates John Cresswell and Rupert Howell.

C4 hotshots Andy Duncan and Kevin Lygo (my cousin by marriage whom I have never met) are 12-1 shots, with talented Channel 5 chief Dawn Airey looking the value on 16s, Communications minister Lord Carter and the late Magnus Pyke are 20-1 chances, while grouped on 25s are BBC3 controller Danny Cohen, Alice Nutter out of Chumabawamba and ITV director of television Peter Fincham. You can still get 33-1 "with a run" about top ranked blue-skies thinker Lord Birt, and it's 40-1 bar those. Further shows to follow.

Touched for the first time

Homeric Epithet of the Week goes to The Sun for "virgin sensation Susan Boyle". I can't speak for Ann Widdecombe, but even Mary, mother of God, and Elizabeth I never got that one.

All alphabets are off

Still with The Sun, some advice to Caroline Iggleden following her otherwise excellent guide to Twittering. If a piece carries the strapline "Our A-Z Guide To Twittering", it's not enough to end it on T for Twitticism. Honestly, love, you do need a Z.

Dave gets the nod

As for SunTalk, the Home of Free Speech hosted by favourite columnist Jon Gaunt, it remains too soon to pass comment. These things must be given time to bed in. For now, all we need do is congratulate Gaunty for launching it with the least sycophantic radio interview with a Tory opposition leader since the 1978, when paramedics were called to LBC's studios to prize Monty Modlyn's nose free from Mrs Thatcher's rear quarters.

In arguably his most accurate analysis since including Rolf Harris among his top ten Greatest Brits, Gaunty addressed David Cameron as "Prime Minister".

Premature identification is an embarrassing complaint, albeit less so than the one Damian & Friends invented for Mr C, but doubtless a letter to Dear Deidre would yield useful advice.

Liverpool hit the woodwork

A word of praise, finally, to Liverpool FC for the most sensitive commercial endeavour of the new austerity age thus far. In a press release entitled Gold Rush at Liverpool, Paver Smith & Co accounts director Charlotte Jones unveils Ian Rush as "ambassador" for an "exclusive, limited edition mobile phone". Commemorating the club's 18 league titles (the last won as recently as 1827), the device will have 18 diamonds encrusted into its back, and comes with a 22-carat gold-plated medallion.

Although any of the 250 phones can be modified with gemstones to order, the basic model retails at just £14,490.

Immaculate timing.