Matthew Norman: Whose eco-disaster is it, anyway?
Monday 02 June 2008
At the risk of boring my dwindling and treacherous army of readers beyond endurance, I must return to the climate-change warriors of the tabloid press. Of all the myriad subjects that engage columnists on right-leaning red tops, this is the great unifier. Every single one has no shred of doubt that it's a giant global conspiracy conceived by lefty governments – not least the Bush White House – to diddle the taxpayer. I will not regurgitate the all-time favourite. Far too often have you read how Tom Utley, the Daily Mail's resident Archimedes, assuaged fears of rising water levels by explaining that when the ice in his G&T melts, the liquid doesn't spill over the side.
Instead, we turn to Tom's colleague Richard Littlejohn, who twice last week made the observation most achingly familiar to fans of the genre – the one insisting that any heavy rain in late spring on its own disproves whatever tiny stores of evidence have been amassed over decades by phalanxes of world experts armed with the most powerful computer simulations.
"Yesterday morning, I awoke, as usual, to the sounds of the Today programme on Radio 4," wrote Richard on Friday. "Outside, it was chucking it down. But according to the BBC, the most important story in the whole wide world was 'global warming'."
So there, yet again, it is. A little splashing of raindrops on the Littlejohn roof, and out come the quote marks that attend "homophobia" and other foolish liberal fictions. The people of Bangladesh will be comforted by this the next time their country is flooded, because the only equally dazzling argument I can imagine is this: someone with no medical training declaring his great-aunt to be in perfect health, contrary to a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's from 30,000 of the planet's finest gerontologists, on the basis of half an hour's lucidity.
Kelvin Mackenzie made the identical point, albeit more succinctly, in The Sun. "This global warming's wet, isn't it?" was the entirety of an item hinting at a latent talent for haiku. Elsewhere, Kelvin unveils another unexpected gift for class warfare, positing that the backgrounds of Messrs Cameron and Osborne will return to haunt them.
Coming so soon after Labour's campaign in Crewe and Nantwich, this seems odd at first sight, but on closer inspection it's clearly a coded attack on Rebekah Wade. She may order her executives to dress as chavs on those gloriously unpatronising meet-the-reader Butlins away-days, but her gentleman caller, Charlie Brooks, is an old Etonian. So is her excellent defence editor Tom Newton-Dunn, while Kelvin himself went to Alleyn's (now almost £12,000 per annum). How long ago it seems that he ritually attacked the likes of Tony Benn for betraying their class, and how little he remembers.
Also struggling for recall is Jon Gaunt, who addresses the BBC's admittedly demented hiring of Steve McClaren as a Euro 2008 pundit by asking: "Whatever next? A programme for the elderly hosted by Harold Shipman?"
Witty, yes, but Gaunty mislays a minor fact. Shipman killed himself in January 2004. Not even TalkSport, on which I gather he was joshingly insolent towards your diarist last week, hires the deceased.
I am distressed to note the Reverend Simon Mayo's reluctance to discuss his Christianity in a questionnaire. Three times, Simon was asked to expound, and, yea, thrice, even as Peter denied Christ at the crowing of the cock, did he bring to mind Mr Tony Blair's anguish when Paxo asked if he prayed with Mr Bush. His reverence is a brilliant broadcaster (I was entirely wrong about him when he moved to Radio 5 Live, where in the absence of Jane Garvey and Fi Glover he's one of very few remaining jewels). But there's no excuse for embarrassed reticence about personal beliefs. His friend, film reviewer and fellow worshipper Mark Kermode (Mark Fairey as was), will take the dimmest view.
Over at The Times, the commentariat's very own Dame Nellie Melba is on lustrous form. Mary Ann Sieghart, back with thankful speed from retirement, recounts how she once informed John Prescott how thick he is. Really very dim, indeed; not just by the cerebral standards of herself and her progeny. I adore Mary Ann's accounts of her Zeligian omnipresence in recent political history (the highlight here being a faux-casual reference to Mr Blair's fondness for her). She really ought to turn them into a Jeffrey Bernard-style stage play, with Susannah Harker in the title role. Or possibly Su Pollard in a ginger syrup.
A lawsuit has been launched in New York, where Joan Clark is suing her employer, Fox News, for post-traumatic stress caused by repeated bites from the bedbugs that plague that enchanting cable channel. Parasitic insect life forms infesting the Fox studio... who'd have thunk it? I've said it many times before, and I'll say it frequently again, but it is a plain physical impossibility to get into bed with Mr Murdoch and not wake up with a horrid little itch.
How miserable, finally, to hear that the BBC has killed off What The Papers Say, and for no better reason than no one gives a toss about us any more. This was one of those eternally running shows you never actually watched, but were comforted to know that it was trundling on. It was The Sky At Night for the inky-fingered, and in a strange, osmotic way it will be missed.
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