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Matthew Norman

Matthew Norman: Pugh, Pugh, Lyons, McGrew...


Such are the perils of the longish lead time that it may all have died down by now, with a few column inches cleared for such banalities as the recession and tomorrow’s minor political event in the States.

Yet while it remains a challenge to know where to start with the carefully cultivated mass lunacy concerning Messrs Ross, Brand and Sachs, and the latter’s granddaughter – whose distress becomes comprehensible only when we learn from the Mirror that, when not performing with Satanic Sluts, she moonlights as a £110 per hour dominatrix (Mistress Voluptua) – it’s probably safest to finish with a few general and aimless reflections.

First, judging by his limitlessly pusillanimous interview with John Humphrys on Friday morning, Michael Lyons is not only unsuited to chair the BBC’s trustees, but would be way out of his depth as ombudsman for the Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb Crazy Hour on BBC Radio Trumpton.

Second, while we have yet to confirm the rumour that Mark Thompson’s answer phone message is three times the length of Andrew Sachs’s, and begins: “Thank you for calling. Let me state in the most unequivocal terms that whatever you happen to be ringing about was utterly unacceptable, and the clearest breach …”, it would save him a lot of time and effort were he to put on video an all-purpose, non-specific mea culpa covering everything from the belated replacement of a faulty water cooler at Radio Lincoln to the failure of the news pips to win the Eurovision Song Contest with their a cappella version of Middle of the Road’s “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”.

And lastly, much as one admires Lesley Douglas for the quaintly Lord Carrington-esque sense of propriety that led her to offer her resignation as controller of Radio 2, the Apologist-General’s greedy acceptance of it was an act of courageous loyalty to a blameless colleague of a nature unwitnessed here since …well, I can’t recall any precedent even in newspapers. If any media historian is looking for a title for an account of how he continued the work so earnestly begun by Alastair Campbell and Lord Hutton, the suggestion is Lions Led By Lemmings.

Do it for charidee

As so often happens when the hunters of the tabloid pack don the pink to go after the Beeb, assuming the duties of Master of Hounds is dear old Kelvin MacKenzie. Kelvin has two distinct modes in this official role. On broadcast media, he’s the wry old stager offering reasonable and balanced criticisms, but when addressing readers of The Sun column in which he seldom shies away from genital mirth himself (in his latest, he cleverly renames Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant as The Fat Dick), he takes a less nuanced line.

On Thursday, after reprising his maidenly shock at some of Jonathan Ross’s earthier gags of old (just the two “disgustings” in the one item), he advised Mr Ross to put his money in the vicinity of his sorry mouth by donating £250,000 to Children In Need. I have no doubt this happened, but if anyone can provide particulars of Kelvin’s donation to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign after his own sincere, albeit subsequently retracted, apology for that minor editorial misjudgment, I’ll include it next week. Purely as an added incentive for Mr Ross to flourish the cheque book.

Littlejohn disjointed

No less offended are the exquisite sensibilities of Richard Littlejohn, who mines a richly contra-intuitive seam in the Daily Mail by using the incident as cause to demand the privatisation of the BBC. In a generally well-argued, we’re-mad-as-hell William Holden rant, I was confused by only this: “Ross’s astronomical salary shouldn’t be a factor,” he wrote, “but it has rightly become the factor.” An imaginary case of finest cooking sherry to the first professional logician who can help me out with that sentence.

Whose hubris?

Elsewhere in the Mail, David Jones files a curious piece headlined “Could Hubris Do For Obama?” from the candidate’s home city of, Chicago. David foxily argues that Obama’s vainglorious assumption that it’s in the bag might yet cost him the White House, seemingly unaware that never has any candidate anywhere been more paranoid about showing hubris than one who dwells at length in his rallies on the Democratic genius for screwing it up.

David quotes an unnamed TV reporter accusing Obama of “already measuring the [Oval Office] drapes”. If a reporter did indeed say this, might he or she have been quoting the line incessantly trotted out in recent stump speeches by a certain John McCain? Who can say?

In Brits we trust

On the op-ed page of The Sun are extracts from Gaunty’s Best of British: It’s Called Great Britain Not Rubbish Britain, and many thanks to Rebekah Wade for offering the choicest cuts from an opus on which I still haven’t lavished £18.99. Included in this saliva-inducing amuse bouche of Gaunty faves are not only the great British summer fete, pork scratchings, saucy seaside postcards, queuing (“What is it with us Brits and queuing?”), HP Sauce, marmalade and the NHS (no direct comparison with the French system, but we take the point).

Also making the cut is tolerance.

All hail the Brand-bot

Returning to Russell Brand, finally, Andrew Pierce has a novel career suggestion in The Daily Telegraph. “Mind you, Brand is so repulsive,” writes Andrew, having dismissed internet chatter about Mr Brand becoming the new Doctor Who, a show he |tells us he has come to love anew, “that with his straggly mop |of hair and silly sing-song voice, he could play a cyberman. And he wouldn’t need make-up.”

What, to pass himself off as a stainless-steel robot? A touch of silver blusher, surely?