Matthew Norman: Crisis vanishes if you look in the Mirror

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The Independent Online

Not for the first time, it is both a pleasure and duty to congratulate the Daily Mirror on its news judgement. It is the first time, however, that the regular feature Daily Mirror Exclusive of the Week is promoted to the lead item, in tribute to last Wednesday’s splash.

Cleverly headlined “Kelly Hunk Is Clunked”, this reported how England rugby international Danny Cipriani took one in the kisser from a Wasps team-mate during a training session.

Rugby being of about half as much interest to Mirror readers as the ancient epic poetry of western Siberia, Danny was front-page fodder purely as gentleman caller to the model and actress Kelly Brook, but we’ll let the sexism pass in honour |of the extreme importance of the story itself.

Now, some might dispute this reading, pointing out that last Tuesday was such a quiet news day that there was no competition for the front page. They have a point. The only items cover-flashed that day, in fact, were the opening of High School Musical, and The Great British Bail Out. Few people, facing a choice between Danny’s decking and the de facto nationalisation of the British banking system, would have decided differently from Mirror editor Richard Wallace (whom I should remind you sacked me as a columnist shortly after ascending to his post). Easy to be clever after the event, of course, so we won’t be too brutal with those of Richard’s rivals who blundered by fixating on the trivial matter of how close our high street banks had come to extinction. Even so, Richard set a new mark last week in recognising his readers’s intelligence, and we salute him for it.

A kick in the kidney

Elsewhere in the Mirror, meanwhile, I was distressed by the sense of glee underpinning coverage of the kidney stone that briefly afflicted the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise

and Regulatory Reform, Peter Mandelson. I was even more upset, however, by Victoria Derbyshire’s inability to mention this medical emergency on her 5 Live phone-in without succumbing to radio’s most relentless fit of giggling since Charlotte Green’s on Radio 4 in March.

But that was perfectly understandable, Ms Green ceding control, as anyone with a weakness for Wildean wit would, when someone whispered that a snatch of the first recorded music sounded like a buzzing bee. Mocking the afflicted is another matter. The poorest of shows on the poorest of shows, and one that won’t lightly be forgotten should Labour be in power when the licence fee is next up for renewal.

Sarah Palin moment

Scary times for Richard and Judy as ratings for their new show on channel Watch plummet alarmingly. Still, thank God Amanda Ross remains their producer. Most fondly remembered for her threat to ban the celebration of birthdays at her production company after someone forgot to ask her to sign a card, Amanda has earned the epithet of Most Powerful Woman in British Publishing thanks to her oversight of R’n’J’s book club. It’s a role for which she seems, if anything, overqualified. Only last Saturday she popped up in the Daily Mail’s Weekend supplement to offer some thoughts on a new publication called Mudbound. “It’s set around the time of World War II and its aftermath,” she observed. “I was ignorant about just how deep-set racism still was in American society at that time.” She mustn’t be embarrassed about this gap in her historical education. Very few people outside what Sarah Palin knows as “the liberal gotcha media elite” have heard of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Selma and Montgomery, or the famously recherché civil rights moment itself. We can’t all be Simon Schamas, can we?

Huw and cry

Still with literature, disappointing news of Huw Edwards. Writing in Y Goleuad (Luminary of the Light), the newspaper of Wales’s Calvinist Methodist church, our most versatile newscaster informs readers that the publication of his potboiler on the chapels of home town Llanelli has been postponed. He blames this delay on a profusion of material (Huw has been visiting as many as possible, not least to try out their organs), and also the sheer weight of world events that so thoughtlessly distract him from his task. Prioritising is always troublesome, but if it’s any encouragement, I have a feeling that, with so many of the chapels vanishing, we could do without him reading out loud for a while.

Bombing in Coventry

My favourite take on the economic crisis comes, perhaps inevitably, from my favourite columnist. Offering a moving personal account in The Sun, Jon Gaunt recalls the last recession when, as all students of his poignant memoir Undaunted will know, he went bankrupt on the failure of his nightclub in the ghost town that was early 1980s Coventry. “My only crime,” he says, “was that I tried to do something positive and create jobs in Coventry, but failed.”

That’s no crime, Gaunty, that’s altruistic self-sacrifice of the sort this Great Country (Not This Rubbish Country) Of Ours has seldom seen since Peter Stringfellow went that extra mile for the poor and dispossessed of central London by opening for business in St Martin’s Lane. Yet again, his heroism has me welling up, so we’d best move on.

Disaster al Pesto

Spare a thought, finally, for Evan Davis. He’s doing fine on Today programme, of course, albeit we’d like to hear more of the tiger who mauled Hilary Benn for attempting to give out a freephone number for impoverished people wishing to save heating costs. Even so, what a time Evan picked to yield his post as BBC economics editor and hand all the glory to dear old Pesto. I mean, what a bleedin’ time.