Matthew Norman: Cry freedom, Black could be back
Monday 14 December 2009
Please don't tempt fate by untying that yellow ribbon from the old oak tree ... but there is a sliver of a chance that Conrad Black will soon be out.
Put in a prison cell for somethin' that he never duhhhn, the Reuben "Hurricane" Carter of Nixon-worshipping non-competers is appealing his conviction for fraud to the US Supreme Court – and it seems that the Supremes are loving his lawyer's arguments. You can't hurry law, of course, and we'll have to wait until June to discover whether they regard the "honest services" element of the relevant statute as too vague to be constitutional.
Whether this least self-aggrandising of men would then be freed from stir in Florida, where he expertly plays Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption by shepherding younger cons, is questionable. His friend David Frum is bullish, positing that if he wins "his time already served should more than satisfy the courts that sentenced him". Without misunderestimating this erstwhile Dubya speechwriter (that went well), Mr Frum seems to overlook the concurrent six-and-a-half-year stretch for obstructing justice.
Yet there is still that seductive shard of hope that Lord B will be back next year, possibly issuing those threatened libel writs against his detractors. Calm down, Eady J, it's just a possibility. Even so, what Parliament needs above all is a sworn foe of outlandishly misusing other people's money, and the sooner he returns to the red benches, the better for our ailing democratic system.
Mention of expenses brings us to a spirit of media oversight past and another perhaps yet to come. Starting with the latter, commiserations to shadow culture, media and sport secretary Jeremy Hunt. As if being invited to repay £9,500 claimed for his pictureseque pebble-dashed house in Farnham wasn't enough, that leftie dinosaur Lord Sugar demands his resignation. It's important to state that this is in no way Alan's revenge for Jeremy's declaration earlier this year that his twin roles of government adviser on enterprise and platform-shoed titan of The Apprentice are incompatible.
Sit down Gerald
As for Gerald Kaufman, whose stewardship of the media select committee remains grievously missed, it's sad to see him back in the soup. When Gerald's claim for £220 for a pair of crystal grapefruit bowls was revealed in the summer, he cited a self-diagnosed OCD (always exciting, to borrow from Dr Niles Crane, to be in at the birth of a new mental illness). How he'll explain the £935 for a replacement chair remains to be seen, but it seems safe to assume another medical problem. On the off chance that he has to return it, I have my eye on eBay item 250543405882, a handsome Victorian commode chair. Bidding ends on Tuesday night, and if it doesn't soar too far beyond the current £9.99, that'll be one Christmas present taken care of.
No place in Sun
The cruel taunting of Jon Gaunt continues. Since cerebral Sun editor Dominic Mohan exiled Gaunty to an imaginary "daily" blog in October, Shami Chakrabarti and Ken Livingstone have been guests in his Friday slot, while the latest supersub is Stephen Pound.
The likeable Mockney MP for Ealing North, son of a BBC announcer who made Alvar Liddel sound like Joe Swash, appeared to devote one item to ridiculing his leadership's fixation with class warfare, recalling Michael Howard's PMQs put down – "this grammar schoolboy will take no lessons from that public schoolboy" – to Mr Tony Blair. But the text isn't easy to penetrate, and he may equally have been attacking the Tories for bleating under fire. "What was it that Corporal Jones said about them not liking it up 'em?" he concluded. What it was, in its entirety, is that they do not like it up 'em. The answer was in the question, Stephen. Now be silent.
Also dwelling on the PM's deliciously cunning electoral strategy was Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. She drew the distinction between nasty Tory public school products, who wish to perpetuate privilege by birth, and nice Labour ones who want to diminish it.
"The Labour era's effect on mobility is unknowable for another decade," Polly went on, "and even then will no doubt be disputed." No doubt they will, and understandably so when it would be so reckless to rush to judgement.
"On Labour's watch, class has become more rigid, destiny for most babies is decided at birth, and the incomes of rich and poor families have drawn further apart," as Polly wrote back in July.
Mixed messages from the Daily Mail on anatomical depiction. Last week a pair of nipples appeared uncensored, and although it was in a cartoon this was still a breakthrough. But a piece on testicular pain was illustrated with a picture of two half-opened conkers.
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