Matthew Norman: Less lunch, Moore licence fee please


In furtherance of his heroic campaign to destroy the institution he is paid an annual £816,000 to protect, Mark Thompson is reportedly intent on entertaining a common criminal at the licence fee payer's expense.

The BBC director general has invited Charles Moore to lunch in his office, according to the Daily Mail's Ephraim Hardcastle, in the hope of persuading Charles to pay up – something the Thatcher biographer refuses to do, as you will recall, until the BBC sacks Jonathan Ross. This is peculiar. In my day it was the business of the police, however busy arresting Tory front benchers for no apparent reason, to enforce the law of the land. Why Charles hasn't been nicked yet remains unclear, but you'd have thought the DG would have more urgent calls on his time than lunching his tormentors. It seems unlikely that Charles will accept, since according to Hardcastle he means to ring Mark to ask that devout Roman Catholic "whether he masturbates about octogenarians".

The smutmeister is inspired here by the Ross interview in which David Cameron was asked if he ever cracked one off over Mrs Thatcher. What Charles fails to grasp is that Mr Ross was referring to Mr Cameron's adolescence, when Thatch was in her early 50s and the source of limitless lust for such far right-wing charmers as Alan Clark, and quite possibly - who but he can say? – Charles himself. It's fine trying to bully an invertebrate DG into firing someone, but it would be nothing less than ripping were Charles to acquaint himself with the facts before launching these Wildean thrusts.

What shall it profit a man?

Incidentally, isn't there supposed to be some rule against people profiting from writing about their offences? If so, outgoing PCC chairman might have a quiet word with Charles about all these lucrative columns in which he brags about his crime.

For the sake of St Paul

When not wooing the mailbag-sewers of tomorrow, Mark busies himself with the crucial matter of swearing. His representative on earth here is "Director of Vision Jana Bennett, who reveals a drive to reduce the number of expletives "to avoid alienating viewers" – a styling my BBC-English phrase book translates as "to pacify Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail". Even if there's a touch of "would you let your wives and daughters ...?" about all this (Paul not being known in the office for the purity of his tongue), you have to admire him for reopening a cultural war widely assumed to have ended a decade ago with such ferocity, and single-handedly reminding us of that distant age when newspapers had central relevance to national debate.

Rachet up the rant, Mel

As for one of Paul's columnists, I was alarmed the other night by Radio 4's Moral Maze. For so long did a debate about something or other twitter on without so much as a hint of her dulcets that I assumed Melanie Phillips must have left the panel. Finally, the zany mischief-maker piped up, but this was a shocking business. So long as Mad Mel remains riven by reticence she's never going to make much of herself. One of those correspondence courses in self-assertion that PG Wodehouse characters were always taking seems indicated, and forthwith.

Is Rachel on a Liddle trip?

Equally worrying is the absence from the Mail last week of Rachel Royce. Following the Gordon Ramsay revelations, Liz Jones trundled out the mandatory I Was Married To A Rat feature, but nothing from Rachel about her wedlock to Rod Liddle. In fact it's as long ago as early October that she last adorned the Mail with the piece. Does anyone know if she's all right?

That's Life in the jungle

What on earth has happened to Esther Rantzen? Almost a fortnight in the jungle, at the time of writing, and nothing but sweetness. Honestly, it's impossible not to warm to her, especially when she confides to Mr Sulu that the one thing women lack in their careers is ambition (a self-portrait to startle her That's Life pinheads, perhaps, but an enchantment all the same). Does Esther have no conception that the producers put her in the jungle to be poisonous in the most caring way? A very poor show on what has, thus far, been a very poor show.

Gaunty for 'I'm a Celeb'

When those producers sit down to discuss how to make next year's I'm A Celeb livelier than this year's, I have one word of advice. Gaunty. That human rights champion would shake things up good and proper, and should be able to spare the time.

Deep down

I am intrigued to hear of changes at Radio 5 Live. Continuing his predecessor's remorseless drive down market, newish controller Adrian van Klaveren is scrapping the midday news hour to allow Nicky Campbell an hour of phone-in merriment after his breakfast show. No doubt Victoria Derbyshire, whose programme is pushed back as a result, is overjoyed at this show of confidence.

Judge Naughtie is nice

Hats aloft, finally, to the Radio 4 Today programme's Jim Naughtie on his appointment as chair of the Booker Prize judges. How he'll find the time to read eight million mediocre novels while doing Today I've no idea, but we wouldn't be without him in the mornings however fatigued he might be. Jim's own current affairs speciality is, of course, the musicality of winged garden creatures, so if Sebastian Faulks has ever considered a sequel to Birdsong, this would be the time to get cracking.

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