Matthew Norman: Chumps' U-turn embarrasses Labour

Diary

Oh the excruciation of a sense of entitlement betrayed. So many and varied are the delights to be savoured from Labour's reaction to The Sun's delicately timed transfer of support that picking a winner feels futile.

Union boss Tony Woodley's tearing up of an edition on the conference platform cutely mingled pathos and pantomime, for example, while the studied indifference of Alastair Campbell was a predictable treat. A champion must be declared, however, so take a bow Lance Price, whose odyssey from BBC reporter to No 10 propagandist to political commentator neatly reflects New Labour's triumph in eliminating the traditional distinction between an independent media and the government. "It would be in the interests of everybody apart from The Sun itself," wrote Lance on Wednesday, shrugging off newspaper endorsements as meaningless, "if we all took one look at their front page and said a weary 'So what?'" How true that is. What kind of centre-left administration fixates on the mythical importance of a right-wing red-top? Now then, here's Lance reacting to the Daily Mirror's revelation, in October 2001, that a Downing Street press officer by the name of Lance Price had leaked the previous summer's election date to The Sun. Admitting that the Mirror felt "mightily aggrieved", Lance said then that "having The Sun on board was a sufficiently important price to take that risk." A chump of a rare order indeed. Or whatever noun Lord Mandelson unleashed in top level talks with Sun execs in Brighton the other night.

Murdoch marches on

The happy news for fans of British governance is that the Murdoch-government axis that has ruled us so wisely for 30 almost unbroken years will continue. With James Murdoch and George Osborne new best friends, in fact, and with Andy Coulson so effectively deployed as an alternate bridgehead, it will be stronger than ever. The Eurotrash salon of Matthew Freud and Elisabeth Murdoch will remain the epicentre of influence, and we look forward to David Cameron arriving at their Christmas bash on the arm of fearsomely cerebral new Sun editor Dominic Mohan, as Mr Tony Blair once did with Rebekah Wade.

Her own promotion to News International chief executive looks less an internal appointment than a key step in forming the transition team. While governments rise and fall, the Murdoch empire glides dynastically on. In this respect, it is the mirror-image of the monarchy Rupert so despises, only with power. In an uncertain, neophiliac world, its permanence is a reassurance to us all.

All bow to Andrew Marr

As for the week's other major media story of the week, we salute Andrew Marr, right, for asking the Prime Minister that question. If Andrew possessed a slightly larger pair, he'd have specified anti-depressants, but that's a tiny quibble. The notion that the PM's mental health isn't a legitimate area of public interest, as propounded by too many pundits, is totally deranged in itself, while the antipathy towards letting the electorate in on what that odious little clique at Westminster have been discussing relentlessly for years echoes the patrician contempt that precluded any public mention of the abdication crisis as it came to the boil in 1936. It's worth noting that Gordon could easily have rebutted the rumour when Mr Marr raised it, but restricted his denial to that half of the question regarding his eyesight. Any decent poker player noting his body language would have taken 0.17 seconds to conclude he was bluffing and push all the chips into the pot.

Smear squad's backlash

Among those taking the opposite line is the Mirror's Kevin Maguire, who attended that fabled meeting of Damian McBride's smear squad – one that wanted to spread poison, you must recall, about the mental health of a shadow minister's wife – in a purely private capacity. Kevin suffered a fit of the vapours, approvingly tweeting that a "group of Labour MPs plan to boycott Andrew Marr's programme until he apologises over Brown pill-popping nonsense". There is no word as to which high-minded souls belong to this group, but a feeling in my water insists that Andrew and his Sabbath audience will find the strength to endure their absence.

Bradshaw plays dumb

Lovers of hide-behind-the-cushion telly are begged to check out Ben Bradshaw's Question Time appearance on YouTube. Asked whether it was right to deport Roman Polanski, Ben looked bamboozled (who'd have guessed that one might come up?) before confessing he hadn't focused on the story. This was no lie. He wasn't even sure about the 13-year-old victim's gender. It takes a fair bit to entice an ironic put-down from the affable David Dimbleby, but Ben's claim that the story fell outside his brief managed it. "Culture, media and sport," was Mr Dimbleby's laconic reply to that. As for David Starkey's unwontedly vicious demolition of this über-nebbish, well, you'd need a stronger constitution and a bigger cushion than mine to have coped comfortably with that. British TV has thrown up no political humiliation on this scale since higher education supremo David Lammy went on Celebrity Mastermind and proudly informed John Humphrys that the surname of Marie, the French scientist who discovered radium, was Antoinette.

Boris's calamitous cameo

Mind you, Boris's EastEnders cameo came mighty close. Whoever advised him to suffer a puncture while cycling through Walford and wander into the Queen Vic at the precise moment Peggy was bemoaning her lack of access to the London Mayor wants a slap. Would anyone have a current mobile number for Darius Guppy?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales Executive

£20 - £30k DOE + OTE + BENEFITS: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen