Matthew Norman's Media Diary
Wading in where Sun doesn't shine
Monday 24 September 2007
An indecently riveting book serialisation in The Sun reminds us to mark an important date in the diary. The book is Ross Kemp On Gangs (Erin Pizzey Press, £16.99), in which Ross reflects on his encounters with the planet's scariest villains. And the date is 2 November, the second anniversary of the day he grassed up his (now estranged) wife Rebekah Wade, the editor of The Sun, for giving him a hiding at the Battersea home they sadly no longer share. That Ross merits the "TV hardman" epithet that adorned so many pages last week is not in doubt, for his insouciance in the face of physical danger is remarkable.
"I asked Mask Man how he protected his turf," he writes of one St Louis hood. "Reaching down into his cavernous underpants he pulled out what he called 'my nine' (9mm) – in actual fact a Colt.45 pistol ...Great!" Great indeed, yet reading about these brushes with petrifying psychotics, you can't help wondering anew about the night the petite Ms Wade mashed him up, and more precisely the damage limitation exercise that followed. You will recall that just as Ross was delving into his capacious underpants to unleash his own "nine" – three of them, in fact, to summon emergency assistance – his erstwhile EastEnders bruv Steve McFadden was also being walloped by a woman. Startlingly, The Sun chose to splash with Steve's victimhood, relegating Ross's to a tiny afterthought.
It would need an actuary of genius to calculate the odds on two top TV hardmen suffering domestic violence at the same moment, and the suspicion endures that Steve's bother was manufactured to deflect attention from Ms Wade's embarrassment. Max Clifford denied involvement at the time, but what if someone else faked the incident? No paper has been more critical of the BBC for its various deceptions than The Sun. Should John Sweeney's forthcoming Panorama investigation crack the mystery, what on earth would it make of a newspaper that deceived its loyal army of readers with an entirely contrived front page splash?
Speaking of those BBC breaches of trust, will director general Mark Thompson ever grasp the full gravity? "Letting down the children who watch Blue Peter and who trust it implicitly is a truly terrible idea," blogged Mark of the latest outrage, "even if all that is at stake is the difference between calling a cat Cookie or Socks". Or Pussy or Socks, as the real choice apparently was. Any parent who's had to break the news will know the traumatic fall-out.
"But, but, Mummy ... this is so terrible," one seven-year-old girl was overheard sobbing in west London on Friday. "Why didn't they call it Fanny, and be done with it? I'll never, ever, ever trust the BBC again."
But just how far does this subterfuge go back? And isn't it high time John Noakes scotched that age-old rumour, and publicly denied force-feeding the baby elephant with laxatives?
The muted response to Jose Mourinho's departure from Chelsea has been a disappointment. Somehow, the sacking of a football coach doesn't seem to qualify as real news in this trivial age. Having said that, a few women columnists (76 "I'll Miss Jose" pieces at the last count, but as Big Ron would remind us, "it's still early doors") have shared their grief, the pick being GMTV's Fiona Phillips in The Mirror. "I was asleep when I first got the news," she confides. "My husband ... woke me up. At first I thought something terrible had happened – and indeed it had." That Fiona managed to make it into the studio that morning at all does her great credit. "Ex-Spurs and Chelsea striker Clive Allen was on the show and my voice cracked as we talked about it. I even wore a black armband as a mark of respect." What a model professional she is.
Fears remain that The Daily Telegraph's Jeff Randall is simply too effete for the ruthless world of financial journalism. Interviewed in a so-called rival media section, Jeff is questioned about the tax avoidance measures deployed by Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation gave the Treasury 17 shillings, ninepence ha'penny in corporation tax last year, but he cannot overcome his distaste for criticising anyone. "I am not going to tell you," says Jeff, "what I think of it morally." It must be extraordinarily draining for a commentator to feel so constrained by his own sweet nature that he cannot comment at all. Jeff Randall Live can now be seen on Sky News each weekday at 7.30pm.
Having started with mention of a marriage in strife, balance demands that we end with one that seems stronger than ever. Jeff's colleague Joshua Rozenberg is leaving The Telegraph staff, remaining as the paper's legal editor but going freelance in order to spend more time at home with his wife Mad Mel Phillips, from where he will concentrate on broadcasting via an ISDN unit. Meanwhile, Joshua has contributed to Spear's Wealth Management Survey, a product of Luxury Publishing of SW3 with a cover price of £25. The article, headlined Game of Two Halves, instructs readers that London is now "the divorce destination of choice for gold-diggers looking for a 50-50 split ... Today, more than ever," he concludes, "what you need most of all is a good lawyer". The magazine is distributed in Chelsea, where Rebekah has lived since her separation from Ross. But don't go getting any funny ideas, doll, eh? He's the hardest man on telly, and he knows a lot of people.
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