Matthew Norman: That contacts book may prove useful, Archie


Warmest congrats to ITV on finally concluding its thrilling quest for a new chairman. It’s been a blast these recent months, with a seemingly endless succession of giants touted for the job before vanishing from view.

But all good things must come to an end, and there could have been no worthier winner than Archie Norman. Even if his qualifications to succeed Michael Grade remain tantalisingly opaque, the important thing is to make it crystal clear that his appointment has not one iota to do with his political past. Sad to say, some may regard this as a further sign of the media firmament rearranging itself in readiness for a change of government.

Why would ITV want an erstwhile Tory shadow cabinet member with refreshingly non-existent television experience at such a perilous time, these nincompoops will wonder, if not his long friendship with David Cameron, whose mentor he once was at McKinsey’s and whose leadership he has lavishly praised? This naivete is baffling. A major media company would no more hire a man for his political connections than a political party would hire somebody primarily for their media contacts. Andy Coulson will bear me out on this.

This sort of neo-Berlusconian blurring of the politico-media dividing line isn’t how things work over here. No, Archie’s appointment isn’t merely inspired but also a gorgeous piece of symmetry. As chief press officer for Michael Green’s abysmal Carlton, Mr Cameron colluded in the destruction of ITV standards that eventually led the network to the precipice. Now his old chum is going to clean up the mess he helped create.

Charity case

Last week Liz Jones was mostly writing about poverty. Confiding to Daily Mail readers that she is £150,000 in debt, Liz detailed her brutal efforts to avoid a trip to Carey Street.

She is now, so she claims, living on the jobseeker’s allowance of £64.30 a week, and the sacrifices are inspiring. She has, for instance, shaved her own legs for the first time since the Seventies. She has been to Primark. She even, the Lord have mercy, came frighteningly close to catching a bus.

“I hadn’t realised how spoilt I had become,” confesses the bucolic tourist who spent £26,000 on a bat sanctuary at the Somerset home she seems to have abandoned after the botched assassination attempt by livid neighbours that saw gunshot pellet besmirch her letterbox.

This is distressing to read, and if Mail editor Paul Dacre doesn’t double her “hefty salary” forthwith, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure are expected to step in.

No party in Liverpool then

Wouldn’t you have thought that The Sun might make a bit of fuss about its 40th birthday? Every day last week I turned expectantly to the paper in the hope of proper coverage of this anniversary, but apart from the odd understated reference on pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7, 11, 13, 15, 17-23, four-page pull-out in the middle and half the sports section...nada.

Alright, I exaggerate a little. Those with access to the Hubble telescope may have located the odd bit of own trumpet-blowing. “Biggest Names On Earth Salute Sun On Our Big 4-0”, a minuscule strap line declared on Tuesday, above a contribution from planetary titan Freddie Starr. That apart, there can’t have been more than an aggregate 150,000 words on the matter. In fact cerebral new editor Dominic Mohan restricted the self-indulgence so much that, among the reprinted headlines, there was no space for that Hillsborough classic “The Truth”.

A true visionary

As for the man who no longer has a shred of influence on Sun editorial policy (it breaks his noble heart to see how it has forsaken Gordon Brown; but then love sometimes means having to let go), Rupert Murdoch had another lively week.

After the triumphant interview with Sky in Australia in which he agreed with Fox’s Glenn Beck that President Obama is racist, and struggled heroically for the meaning of that wickedly recherché media term “online”, Davros fired his PR man Gary Ginsberg. And then, just to prove that he needs no nurse-maiding, Rupert delivered a carefully nuanced critique of New York governor David Paterson...“a very nice, honest man”, in his opinion, “who’s blind and can’t read Braille and doesn’t really know what’s going on”. Still, it all ended happily enough. The governor later said that all was “fine” because Rupert rang to “apologise like a gentleman”. And gentlemen, as everyone knows, prefer blinds.

Jungle fever

Daily Mirror Exclusive of the Week goes to Mark Jeffries for Thursday’s report, wittily headlined “Kim And ‘Ave A Go”, this concerned leading I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! grotesque Kim Woodburn – a woman you would cross not a road but a galaxy to avoid – being beastly to that lovely Katie Price. How Mark managed to protect this scoop is beyond me when barely 12 million viewers had watched the exchange from which it was transcribed the previous night. What is wrong with the Mirror back bench? It’s an illness.

Time to move on

As for Mark’s most venerable colleague, finally, Paul Routledge was our guide on a Club 88-90 outing to Mother Kelly’s doorstep down memory lane. “Extraordinary,” wrote the Chelsea Pensioner of working class warriors, “President Obama bowing to Emperor Akihito of Japan, the Pearl Harbour foe. Then swapping pleasantries with President Hu of China, America’s enemy in Korea.”

Isn’t it extraordinary though? If things continue to slide on the insanely rushed rapprochement front, how long before Paul has to rebuke his beloved Gordon Brown for shaking hands with Nicolas Sarkozy of Agincourt opponent France, or pecking Angela Merkel on the cheek?

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