Matthew Norman: This strange business on Cameron's doorstep
Monday 30 November 2009
When David Cameron opened his front door and snippily berated the Daily Mirror reporter requesting his comment on its splash about how much he and colleagues will benefit from Tory inheritance tax policy, did he say: "You should try working for an independent newspaper" or "... The Independent newspaper"?
This is critical. If the latter, then the management here will want to use that snippet from Rebecca Evans's tape recording in a national radio ad campaign – albeit with "working for" replaced by "subscribe to" via voice replication technology. On balance, it must have been the definite article. The notion that one who has already realised that "the heir to Blair" dream (and without paying a farthing in IHT) by flogging his political soul to The Sun would attack another title for partisanship is too crude a parody of self-unawareness to be credible.
That would be as demented as ... aargh, I dunno, Lord Mandelson affecting high minded disdain for The Sun's antipathy after a dozen years in which New Labour could have claimed that paper's colon as its second home without the Fees Office batting an eyelid.
If Mr Cameron did in fact say "an independent newspaper", he will reflect on the hypocrisy and sign up for the 32-hour operation required to separate twins conjoined at the head. No, all logic insists he said "The Independent", and we'll take his consent to use the quote in forthcoming ad campaigns as read.
As for Mr Cameron's communications chief, Andy Coulson, it's shocking that he has been accused of leading the bullying for which News of the World football writer Matt Driscoll was awarded £800,000 in compensation last week. What the employment tribunal failed to grasp is that Andy was a rigorously hands-off editor of the NoW, rather in the patrician style of Peregrine Worsthorne, and never concerned himself with the minutiae.
For instance, although Andy wisely regards a categorical denial as beneath his dignity, everyone accepts he knew nothing about the bugging of royal mobiles, and it's too outlandish for words that so central a figure in Mr Cameron's high command would have treated a fellow journalist in such a despicable manner.
I am distraught to find the Sunday Telegraph's Tim Walker starring in Private Eye's Hackwatch a fortnight ago, after we celebrated the inventiveness with which the Kenneth Tynan du jour illuminates theatre after he devoted a chunk of a review to the girth of the fellow critic behind him. Not content with that masterstroke, Hackwatch also derides Tim's suggestion that the Old Vic's production of Inherit The Wind won't cross the Atlantic because Broadway is scared of staging a play about a 1925 trial concerning the teaching of Darwinian theory.
It makes perfect sense to me. Is any US city quite so cravenly in thrall to Creationists as that Bible-belt city New York? Yet the Eye claims the failure to transfer has more to do with its last Broadway revival being just two years ago. Any more of this neo-Driscollian bullying of Tim (who, as I've mentioned before, was given the job after my wife was fired from it), and savage retaliations will ensue. What they are yet I know not. But they shall be the terrors of the earth. For Tim's benefit, that's a quote from King Lear. Shakespeare's King Lear. Now can we all agree to leave the dapper little lamb in peace?
It seems we can't agree after all. Hackwatch mentions that Tim's walker on his outing to Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art was one Rod Gilchrist, who in the bar loudly declared: "Tell me, Tim, which of those fat c***s over there keeps taking a pop at you?"
Mr Gilchrist is possibly my favourite Fleet Street character ever. On becoming Mail on Sunday deputy editor in 1992, he approached that same missus when she was overseeing the travel pages, throwing every future article into the bin before snatching the Post-It note headed "To do" from her desk. "That's it, that's what we want," Roderick screeched. "Todo! I want someone sent to the south Pacific island of Todo at once." As for his headline on a piece from South America, accompanied by a picture of a large lizard, a bunch of us still meet annually in the phantasmal hope of deconstructing "Iguana Bwana". A lovable buffoon of the very first order indeed.
Pooped by scoops
Daily Mirror Exclusive of the Week goes to Matt Rope for ... aargh, I haven't the strength. But really. I mean, for God's sake show some self-respect.
Quizzing the Times
Why Times editor James Harding has failed to return calls is for him and his conscience, but if he can find the time I'd love to hear his future plans to feature Olaf's journalism. Olaf, whose surname eludes me, as perhaps it does James, is the quizzing champ who propelled the Times team to the narrowest of victories in last Monday's English PEN quiz. James has until noon on Friday to explain why the phrase "scandalously blatant ringer" is unseemly. Incidentally, the answer Olaf gave to win the tie break was Othello. I have already promised not to linger on how a certain theatre critic managed to confuse that recherché title character with Iago, so we'll move on.
Hats off, finally, to the dude responsible for ensuring that media outlets maintain a rigidly unpartisan relationship with the coming Conservative government. When Tory culture, media and sport spokesman Jeremy Hunt appeared on Radio 4's Front Row with his Labour and Lib Dem equivalents, he referred to this year's Best Picture at the Oscars simply as Slumdog. Very Mr Hollywood he sounded too. Mr Hunt is definitely one to watch.
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