Matthew Norman: Watch out, Liz – even your colleagues are taking pot shots at you now
Monday 14 September 2009
Just when you imagine that Liz Jones World has reached its zenith, the girl who put the luscious lips into solipsism hoists it to a new apex of zany dementia.
It's a little like watching Usain Bolt effortlessly annihilate world records previously regarded as unbreakable. You can scarcely believe the evidence of your own mince pies. My own appetite for Liz's accounts of her new life in Somerset, the cutest rural idyll literature has known since Cold Comfort Farm, could never be sated, but concerns mount that her employers at the Daily Mail may be suffering fatigue.
A while ago, the paper ran a review of her book, The Exmoor Files, in which Jane Shilling referred to "emotional incontinence" and "painful narcissism", but last week things took a shocking turn following Liz's utterly convincing account of how her neighbours, possibly irritated by her published thoughts on them, have taken to shooting at her letterbox. Last Monday, Janet Street-Porter devoted much of her Mail column to ridiculing her colleague's claim, suggesting that shotgun holes are inevitable in areas where people shoot animals, and advising the old girl to become a few per cent less snooty.
The very next day, meanwhile, the paper commissioned Rachel Johnson, who has a home not far away, to share her memories of precisely how Liz has gone about charming the community, both in print and in person. She too wonders whether the bullet holes might have something to do with pheasant shoots.
I find the way these women seek to portray Liz as an hysterical fantasist despicable, and advise her to think about a bullet-proof vest (Versace's autumn collection has one in a divine salmon pink), or better still, an Anderson shelter. Most of all, we would urge her to watch her back. Angry country folk are one thing. A Daily Mail editor willing to humiliate a supposedly star columnist on consecutive days... now that really is scary.
Incidentally, I'm a little troubled by one revelation of Rachel's. "It's often so cold," confides the new editor of The Lady, in contrasting the true portrait of life on Exmoor with Liz's Bucolic Lite, "that I go to bed in the same clothes I've been wearing all day to hew logs, make crumble and walk the dogs in, for weeks at a time." Not very Lady-like, perhaps, if no less credible than Liz's tale of scatter-gun torment. Has she ever thought about some form of heating, or at least the odd hot bath?
Over at The Sun, another leading columnist has, for now at least, survived a change of editors. Jon Gaunt ploughs elegantly on in his Friday slot under new boss Dominic Mohan, and on current form, no wonder. In his own special way, Gaunty is barely less committed to sharing his life with readers than Liz, and while Friday's effort fell short of the memorable account of how he used to masturbate over the underwear of the stepmother known to his teenage self as "the slag", there was much else to delight. His update on a continuing struggle with the debt-collection department of David Lloyd Leisure was particularly enthralling. If there's one thing that marks the great columnist apart, it's the courage to use public space to execute private grudges. Well done, Gaunty.
Mike goes for Gold
Sensational and possibly exclusive news for fans of the blast from the past. Within weeks, God willing, what its founder Mike Read bashfully describes on its website as "easily the most exciting prospect" – and you have to love that "easily" – "for the radio industry in the past 20 years" will be on the air. "Ready", to whom there is so much more than simply being the Steven Sondheim du jour, is posed to launch One Gold (1395 on your AM dial), a recreation of the Seventies glory days of Radio 1.
It remains the earliest of doors, and the details are a little sketchy, but others involved are thought to include Tony Blackburn, Paul Burnett and that pint-sized titan of the airwaves, "Diddy" David Hamilton. With Ready's projects it often pays to be a little cautious – his plan to take his monstrously underrated Wildean musical Oscar to Broadway sadly went the way of his ambition to become London mayor in the Tory interest – so fingers crossed the launch, originally scheduled for Radio 1's 42nd anniversary on 30 September, won't be delayed much longer. If it happens, will it be all right? Not 'alf!
While doffing the cap to the six authors in the Booker Prize running, I find myself mystified by an absentee from the shortlist. Can anyone explain why Me Cheeta, the glorious satire of Hollywood memoirs written in the voice of the chimp from the Tarzan movies, failed to make the cut? Ordinarily you'd assume that it's the innate disdain for humour that afflicts literary prize judges. With jolly Jim Naughtie chairing this year's panel, it makes not one whit of sense.
What a load of suck-ups
With the Prime Minister vacillating in unwonted style over whether or not to participate in a live election debate, the Daily Mirror's Kevin Maguire offers him a gentle steer. "The platform's a lifeline when Labour is behind in the polls," he argues, "and the BBC and much of the press suck up to Cameron."
Kevin has a point. There's little more aggravating for the stickler for determinedly unpartisan coverage than the vista of lesser hacks jumping into bed with political leaders. It's enough to drive a fellow to a secret pow-wow with Gordon's smear squad, in an entirely private capacity of course, to discuss plans for a counter-strike against these wretched sycophants.
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