Matthew Norman: I can't applaud the all-singing Sark satire
Monday 15 December 2008
The firing of Craig Brown by The Daily Telegraph may be as perplexing an act of self-mutilation as even this demented industry can recall, but there is silver lining.
Finally, perhaps, Craig will agree to head a coalition of satirists in writing the long-mooted West End spectacular Barclay Brothers: The Musical. If ever a pair of fraternal beauties deserved the honour, it is these champions of ironic self-awareness. "We are fierce supporters of press freedom and the right to free expression," trumpeted the newsletter they had distributed on Sark before last week's historic lurch towards democracy, and how John Sweeney and others pursued through French courts when even our draconian libel laws kept the Twins down will cheer that. Why the good people of Sark, whose economy the Twins' actions are damaging after the Sarkees' refusal to elect their preferred candidates, disdained these midwives of democracy we may never fully understand.
Sometimes, all you can do is scratch your head at people's inexplicable distrust of those with their own best interests in mind. It breaks the heart to imagine the lads morosely gazing out from their lightly-fortified home on Brecou island, across waters patrolled by their power boats towards the wretched ingrates of Sark. And yet that's just the sort of Napoleon-on-Elba scene to firm up the musical's appeal by counterbalancing the mirth and mayhem with a touch of poignancy. Casting it won't be easy in the absence of Mike and Bernie Winters – Ian McKellen (all that panto dame experience) for Freddie? Strictly Come Dancing's Len Goodman for Dave? – but we'll leave all that to Craig.
Licence to pontificate
In The Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie leaps aboard Charles Moore's licence fee-avoidance bandwagon. Kelvin doesn't reveal whether he's criminalised himself like Charles intends, but he urges readers to do so, and well done to him for that. No one speaks with more moral authority on the failure to sack Jonathan Ross than the man who retracted a most sincere apology for libelling the dead of Hillsborough. "I hear that Alan Hansen took a private jet with some mates to play golf at Pebble Beach in California," he confides on a vaguely similar theme. "Hope it was paid for from his Morrisons money and not ours, i.e. the BBC's." Ah yes, how often must we read about the Beeb paying £250,000 to transport freelance pundits and their sand wedges across the Atlantic? It may be not true, of course, but the important thing is that it has the ring of truth.
Putting the paper to bed
Tremendous to see our tabloids take to bed with a fit of the vapours about the picture of Craig Ewert at the point of death, and then leap out of bed to stick it on their front pages. These editors show powers of recovery to stagger Lazarus.
The everGreen Kaufman
And so does my friend Gerald Kaufman. One minute my source in his St John's Wood apartment block reports that the old chap is looking like death, the next he tells me he's never been more full of beans. It's a constant cycle of rejuvenation with Gerald (monkey foetuses?), and we must be on an upturn at the minute judging by a Guardian piece in which he pointed out that blame in the Damian Green affair belongs entirely to the Tory spokesman for flirting with illegality, and not one iota to a government that in no way used a politicised police force to intimidate a political rival. Here we find Gerald reprising the independence from the governmental line of the day that made him such a revered chairman of the Commons media committee, a position to which I'd like him to see him restored before his 80th birthday, which should coincide with the next general election in June 2010. What a leaving present from Gordon that would be to us all.
Ex-Brown noser pipes up
Still with the PM, the elasticity of his one-time cheerleader Irwin Stelzer continues to impress. Rupert Murdoch's imperial proconsul to Britain takes space in The Telegraph to lacerate Gordon for blaming the US for an unfolding financial catastrophe entirely of his own making. What a clairvoyant he is. "Despite all the warnings of doom," he told The Observer in 2006, "the economy under Gordon has done very well.... the critics are left with nothing but to cry 'Apocalypse later!'" Those foolish critics. If sacking Craig Brown frees funds for more of Irwin, perhaps it begins to make sense.
Gaunt's only Human
And so, finally, to another satirical genius whose sacking led him to blaze the freedom of expression trail to Damascus on behalf of the Barclay Brothers. During a joint appearance with Shami Chakrabarti on Jeremy Vine's Radio Two show last week, Jon Gaunt declared that "Magna Carta is for the nobs but the Human Rights Act is for the ordinary working man." Meanwhile, in his latest Sun meisterwork, he distances himself from every aspect of that legislation other than its enshrinement of the right to freedom of expression he believes should restore him to his berth on TalkSport. He also accuses me – the impudent scamp – of failing to support his noble quest because, having done a few presenting shifts there lately, I'm scared of upsetting the management. Once again Gaunty finds his target with laser-guided precision. So then, duly chastened, let me set the record straight. This is not the case of a lovable imbecile confused by pure self-interest into championing legislation he built a career on attempting to ridicule. This is the genuine conversion of a mighty warrior for social justice, and in allowing personal ambition to blind me to this I've let Gaunty down, I've let skinny latte-sipping leftie liberalism down, but most of all...
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