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Matthew Norman

Matthew Norman: Why everyone wants to buy British


The best of British to the Daily Mirror's drive to beat the slump by getting us all to Buy British. If the sneerers regard the devotion of several daily pages to defeating this slump as what someone once described (can't remember who or about what, but it will come back to me) as a cocktail of jingoism and intellectual dishonesty, so be it.

Myself, I see the good in everything, and seldom more so than in a campaign spearheaded by Alan Sugar in finger-pointing Lord Kitchener mode.

Particularly helpful was Friday's list of products, some manufactured by British firms, that we should feel honour-bound to purchase. It will be a while before the impact on economic growth can be gauged, of course, but if there isn't a surge in sales of Fairy Liquid, Marmite and Maynards Wine Gums, I'll eat my Union flag-adorned titfer. While Colman's Original English Mustard is now expected to see off the challenge from all those fancy foreign English mustards, retail analysts predict that the biggest beneficiaries of the march to spend by the Mirror's impecunious army of readers will be Jaguar, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce.

Before we get too excited, a tiny caveat. Mature readers may recall something similar from another hideous economic crisis. Back in 1968, a certain Daily Mirror (no relation) launched a campaign called I'm Backing Britain. "After a few months," according to its Wikipedia entry, "without any noticeable effect on individual companies or the economy generally, interest flagged..." In the New Statesman, Philip French summed up the sense that its "jingoism and intellectual dishonesty" (there, told you so) made it laughable.

Still, let's not be discouraged – it might have been different had a Labour MP of the time succeeded in his plan to hijack that campaign and restyle it "Buy British". Robert something, I think... Ah yes, that's it. Robert Maxwell. Don't you just adore perfect symmetry?

Loving the Lebedevs

The only newspaper recommended in Friday's spread was the Daily Mirror, and given the plethora of foreign-owned luxury car-makers gifted (presumably) free advertising elsewhere, this seemed ungracious to the London Evening Standard. Admittedly, the sale to Russian oligarch and all-round saint Alexander Lebedev hadn't been finalised then, and perhaps still hasn't. But assuming it has, or is about to be, the warmest of welcomes to Mr Lebedev and his son Evgeny, who, from what I read in The Independent, have an impeccable record of proprietorship in Moscow, showing a commitment to freedom of expression and courage in opposing Mr Putin that not every home-grown owner could be relied upon to demonstrate.

Now there are those, my colleague Stephen Glover possibly among them, who'd think this the moment to declare an interest, for example by mentioning a twice-weekly sports column in the Standard. But that would imply an intent to ingratiate themselves with these utterly magnificent men that palpably isn't there, so we needn't bother with any of that.

Weighty issues

Concerns mount that the Daily Mail's commitment to chronicling female weight fluctuations is on the wane. One day last week, the Mail could spare no more than three pages for the subject. In fact, even less as only the top half of page three was devoted to pictures showing that actress Gemma Arterton has gained a few pounds since October. Meanwhile, pages 22-23 covered three other slebs who've shed 18 stone between them. Not long, then, before the next Daily Mail article railing in mystified outrage at the prevalence of various eating disorders among young women.

Joe the Hack in Israel

Last week, I mentioned US-election superhero Joe the Plumber's appointment as war correspondent, for the US website pjtv.com. Pleasingly, Joe wasted little time in Israel before stamping his authority on this journalistic backwater. First, he declared that reporters should never be allowed near warzones, citing a preference for the era when visual dispatches were restricted to five-minute propaganda films from the likes of Pathé News, shown in cinemas. Then he tried to browbeat an Israeli hack, seemingly unaware that broadcasting personal beliefs is his first duty, into agreeing that the global media is batting for Hamas. Early days for Joe as a latter-day Richard Dimbleby, but an encouraging start.

End of an era?

Speaking of the latter, it is with regret and disbelief that another moment of media history must be marked. Richard's firstborn, David Dimbleby, is not among the contingent of BBC figures in Washington, DC, for tomorrow's inauguration. Why this is so, I've no idea. Perhaps he couldn't be doing with the travelling. But with no word that Jonathan is covering it either, this would seem to be the first major political event for many decades to pass without any Dimblebovian input, and even if the brothers have irked over the years, there is something faintly sad about that.

Vote Mel, watch Gaunty

A couple of requests, finally, for those with very refined media tastes. Mad Mel Phillips confides, in her astoundingly prolific Spectator-hosted blog, that she is in the running for some prestigious blogging award; and that you can vote for her once a day. Please do so.

As for Jon Gaunt, he tells Sun readers that he will soon be appearing on Countdown as the resident of Dictionary Corner – you know, the one who, with no recourse to a hidden earpiece connected to backstage geeks with anagram software, swiftly comes up with nine-letter words seldom heard beyond the confines of particle physics. We wish Gaunty every success as the thinking wordsmith's Gyles Brandreth, and rely on him to comport himself with dignity alongside that charming Susie Dent.