Matthew Norman: Lord Sugar will see you now Gordon
Monday 08 June 2009
With Esther on the electoral rampage and Fiona Phillips feeling vindicated at rejecting the offer of a government job, who'd have guessed that the first beloved TV figure to make the political breakthrough would be Alan Sugar?
Still suffering an ague of shock over his appointment as "enterprise tsar", and close to fainting from a form of Stendhal Syndrome at the beauty of it all, I can't pretend to grasp all the implications.
But a couple of questions come to mind. What are the odds on his little lordship's booster seat, as employed in the mock boardroom, soon being screwed to the Cabinet table? And by appointing a man with the catchprase "You're fired" at that particular moment of his career, was Gordon trying to tell us that the demographic group that dominates his electoral thinking is the country's political cartoonists?
Oh sweet Lord
Here's yet another question. If the mounting pressure on the BBC to declare what it pays its stars eventually becomes irresistible, will we be told what Lord Sugar is paid for the show (regardless of whether he chooses to redirect some, or all, of it to Great Ormond Street), or could he hide behind the fact that it is channelled through a production company?
This notion that freelance contributors should have their personal details made public bemuses me because, unlike staffers, they are not technically civil servants.
However, now that he's taken on a central role in Peter Mandelson's business department, he will presumably feel obliged to announce how much of the licence fee he receives. Transparency is the government mantra of the day, after all, and if Lord Sugar is anything, he is, as Mandy will discover, a team player.
Brought to book
Leading the campaign to bully the Beeb into revealing these fees, needless to say, is the Murdoch press, and in the vanguard is that corporate loyalist Jon Gaunt.
My favourite columnist presses the case with wonted wit and cleverness in The Sun, yet still carves space to remind us that his "latest book" (published in October) is "now in the shops". I cannot recommend Gaunty's Best of British: It's called Great Britain, Not Rubbish Britain highly enough. Then again, any significant work of contemporary social history that includes Rolf Harris in its listing of the top ten living Brits pretty much recommends itself.
Should have twigged
Whatever the Beeb gives Andrew Neil for presenting The Week in such an unmannered style, it cannot be enough. Andrew, to whom we wish a belated happy 60th (finally he's growing into his looks) was on cracking form on Thursday night, although the excitement proved too much for Michael Portillo.
By way of pointing out that there is a constitutional imperative for a PM to have a public mandate, Michael told us that "John Major, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were all got rid of shortly after they'd won good election victories." Mm, not sure about the first of the trio, Mind you, 1 May 1997 was a very long night for him, what with standing about in Enfield until 4am being blinded by Stephen Twigg's dazzling grin, and he has every right to be confused.
As for Alastair Campbell, who elegantly straddles the Murdoch-Beeb divide by taking money from both, his website based campaign to ensure that Labour's run of election wins doesn't stop at three is proving a tremendous success. The name he thought up, Go Fourth, looks especially prescient. There is a suspicion that, given Labour's performance in many council wards on Thursday, Ali will want to rename it Came Fourth, but job done all the same.
Seldom since the abandonment of the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin – or possibly the splitting asunder of Jordan and Peter Andre – has the world been treated to a more poignant breakdown in relations than the one between Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch.
These two media titans were so close for such a long time, but are now feuding like Mafiosi in the wake of the VAT rate levied on satellite TV companies in Italy, where Mr Murdoch has a virtual monopoly, being doubled to 20 per cent. What is so distressing here is the Italian PM's suggestion that Mr Murdoch is using The Times, which has dwelt on his erotic adventures, as his most rabid attack dog.
The notion that this most chivalrous of papal knights would deploy his titles in furtherance of his own commercial interests is too laughable to warrant rebuttal, yet it stings all the same. How different things were when Mr Tony Blair saw his duties as extending to the role of consigliere to them both, spending hours on the phone trying to persuade Silvio to sell Rupert a TV channel.
Such happy days, to borrow from the late Karen Carpenter, and not so long ago. And now? Now nothing but savage stabs of nostalgic regret for an age when national leaders understood their place in the foothills of the media Olympus.
No dirty dog
On the subject of Rupert's satellite interests, the old boy's prissiness continues to make the Sky listings refreshment for the soul in a crude and vulgar age.
One Joan Collins film currently appears on the planner as The B**ch, and this concern for the exquisite sensibilities of the British satellite subscriber, expressed a page or two away from his porn channel schedules, does him some credit. If, and when, the feud is finally settled, perhaps he will wish to extend this delicacy of feeling to Signor Berlusconi and a couple of his girlfriends.
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
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