Matthew Norman: The Adam and Alastair show
Thursday 13 May 2010
What a wake-up call for those of us who had assumed that the engaging Adam Boulton's paramount function as a television presence was to warn Clive Anderson what he'll look like if he puts on seven stone. Thanks to the spat that almost embroiled the effete Alastair Campbell in his first recorded punch-up since he clocked that rigorously unpompous sage Michael White for unseemly levity about Robert Maxwell's death, we know otherwise.
Mr Boulton, ably supported by the increasingly deranged Kay Burley, is clearly the advance guard for the revolution that Rupert Murdoch will visit upon us should the Tories (unlikely as it seems in coalition) fulfil the threat to scrap Ofcom, so allowing Sky News to be remodelled on the Fox template. These histrionics were lifted directly from the playbook of Fox's Bill O'Reilly, whose inexhaustible store of synthetic outrage fuels his screaming fits at political interviewees.
The alternative reading makes no sense. Had Adam genuinely been offended by the slanderous suggestion that he is a professional Tory partisan – a minor irony itself, recalling the A-list turnout by the Murdoch-New Labour axis powers at his wedding to Anji Hunter – he'd have said something suitably dismissive about not everyone being driven solely by Ali's own narrow, tribal world view. Better still, he might have sampled Brian Redhead, when Nigel Lawson accused him of being a Labour supporter, by following a heavy pause with: "Do you think we should have a one-minute silence now in this interview, for you to apologise for daring to suggest that you know how I vote ...?" Perhaps it's just me, but turning an electric shade of crimson and poking Ali with a finger seemed to lack that sonorous elegance.
The sadness about Adam's eruption, and Ms Burley's eccentric bullying of a mild voting-reformer protester, is that before these self-inflicted wounds Sky was having the best of it. Certainly, its election-night coverage was far superior (I cannot believe I'm writing this) to the BBC's, where David Dimbleby's swan song doubled up as a clinical trial into the efficacy of hypnosis as a risk-free pre-surgical alternative to anaesthesia. As for that boat, what in the name of sanity were they thinking? If ever there was cause to withhold the licence fee, the lavishing of Andrew Neil's formidable interviewing skills on such mighty political thinkers as Bruce Forsyth and Joan Collins was it. Still, it was nice to see Charles Moore enjoy a last public outing before going down before the magistrates for being a licence-fee refusenik himself. I'm not sure of the precise BBC policy about giving airtime to convicted criminals, but presume we won't be seeing Gentleman Charles on the state broadcaster again until that record is spent.
Over in the States, meanwhile, coalition fever is out of control. A friend in Georgia turned on Tuesday to MSNBC, the antithesis of Fox and the cable news channel of choice for the literate and liberal of the US, for a full briefing on the day's developments here. The report, which extended to almost an entire minute, concluded with this delectably nuanced analysis from the anchor. "So the far right and the far left have joined in a coalition. In a time of recession. Well, that'll last." And on to the next item.
One particular joy of recent weeks (and this comes with no ironic intent) has been Norman Tebbit's blogging. The old hooligan, who writes beautifully in the plain style, interacts engagingly with those who leave messages beneath his musings, addressing them personally by online sobriquets encased in quote marks to hint at mild headmasterly bemusement. "In particular I should thank the very many of you who owned up to taking my advice to vote Conservative to rid us of NuLab," ran one entry. "And poor 'bionic raspberry'! What a dilemma in a Plaid Cymru seat ..." There's something horribly addictive about this confluence of old world courtesy and new media cut and thrust, and for this and much else Lord Tebbit takes the uncoveted title of Election Blogger of 2010.
Not that his lordship could ever match the sublime majesty of queen blogger Melanie Phillips. Showing the astute antennae we have come to expect, Mad Mel chose Monday – when Mr Clegg's secret rendezvous with Gordon Brown was revealed and it briefly looked like Labour would survive in office – to write this. "One of the strongest advantages of the British electoral system has always been that it gives voters the opportunity for a clear choice ... It is a brutally clean break and totally transparent." Will she ever let us down?
Commiserations to SunTalk's Jon Gaunt on failing to win the gold, or indeed silver or bronze, in the Speech Radio Personality of the Year category at the Sony awards. My colleague Mark Steel, an unlucky runner up for Best Comedy for his brilliant In Town series on Radio 4, approached Gaunty late in the evening, and attempted to plant a consolatory kiss on his mouth on this column's behalf. Gaunty recoiled at first, but recovered to proffer a stubbly cheek and send his regards. A gracious loser, of sorts, and better luck next year.
Very good, finally, to see West Ham showing such media savvy by alighting on Tuesday as the day to announce the sacking as manager of the adorable Gianfranco Zola. Does anyone know precisely when Jo Moore was transferred to Upton Park?
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