Matthew Norman's Media Diary
The mystery migrant scaremongers
Monday 21 April 2008
Knowing the importance of varying the tone, how refreshing to find the Daily Mail in a fearful strop last week. This time it was the Association of Chief Police Officers report about the absence of an anticipated migrant-inspired crimewave that got the Mail's goat. "Even if accurate," ran one umbraged article about the liberal media's naïve reaction to the ACPO findings, "the coverage would have begged several questions, not least who had claimed there was a migrant crimewave in the first place."
Brilliant point. Who'd ever have scaremongered about such a thing? "You searched for 'migrant crimewave'," flashed up a search box message. "We have found about 24,140 articles on the Mail online." Aha. Let's sample just a few, in reverse chronological order. "7 February 2008: Jacqui Smith has called all 43 chief constables to an urgent summit on crime involving immigrants, it has emerged." "27 January 2008: Britain's highest-ranking black policeman has warned the Home Secretary his force is struggling to cope with an immigrant crimewave." ("For more stories like this," says the accompanying strapline, "buy the Daily Mail every day"). "19 November 2007: "A wave of crime and illegal immigration will sweep across Europe when nine more EU states scrap their border controls next month, it has been claimed."
And on, and on. Will we ever penetrate the mystery of who made such outlandish claims about the migrant crimewave? I don't believe we will.
A Rare foray into 5 Live's breakfast show on Friday instantly discovers Nicky Campbell on top of his game. "Right, here's how democracy works," Nicky tartly began on a lengthy rebuke at the start of a lively chat with a Zanu- PF spokesman. "Is that a question or a statement?," replied the Mugabe man, and although this silenced the little chap, it wasn't for long. "The whole world is laughing at you," Nicky bounced back... "And when they're not laughing, they're weeping." Not to all tastes, certainly, but those who like political interviews conducted after the fashion of a wildly precocious sixth-former giving us barely coiled rage, in the style of Christopher Ecclestone – loved every moment. Well done, Nicky!
Sensational news from the outskirts of London's skinny-latte-sipping Islington brings on a violent fit of the vapours. Marcus Rose, from the Shaw Theatre box office, rings to announce that this coming Sunday's Q&A show with favourite columnist Jon Gaunt – to which I was going to lead an elite corps of fellow fans – has been cancelled at the shortest of notice on the bemusing grounds of a "recording commitment". This is strange. What could he possibly be recording on a Sunday night? A new date is set for 30 September, but don't you fret, Gaunty boy, we'll catch up with you long before then, and this time without prior warning on this page.
As for Gaunty's email spat with The Guardian's Marina Hyde, over an appearance in her column, we'll have to return to this next week. All I can say for now is that Gaunty's notion of a relaxing holiday in Tenerife seems to revolve around googling himself on the beach.
Such touching appreciations of the Pope's American visit in The Times. US editor Gerard Baker was all but overwhelmed, while as for religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill, that gifted ballroom dancer and cousin of the late Basil Rathbone, she all but threw her metaphorical knickers at the Pontiff. "Benedict lacks the showmanship of John Paul II," gushed Ruth, "yet a phenomenal intelligence glows from his features like the more nuanced charisma he undoubtedly possesses. Beneath the Pope's immaculate white attire, elegantly coiffed hair..." Marvellous stuff, and no doubt a particular joy to Rupert Murdoch, that devout Roman Catholic and richly deserving recipient of a papal knighthood in 1998 ("a man of unblemished character," said the citation) shortly before he gave $10 million to a new cathedral in LA. And shortly before he underscored his rigid adherence to the teachings of Rome by divorcing Anna in favour of lovely young Wendy Deng.
Elsewhere in the Thunderer, Carol Midgley is tickled by the Nuneaton wildlife sanctuary parrot which, having greeted the local mayoress with a cheery "fuck off", turned to a pair of coppers and a vicar to add: "You can fuck off too, wankers." It's a cracking piece, albeit every swear word quoted in a piece celebrating the free use of swear words is astericised, while Carol's list of favourite British swearers omits perhaps the most inspired of all. A young actress playing Eliza to Sir Rex Harrison's Professor Higgins once asked him whether her parents, both huge fans, might pop their heads around his dressing room door to say hello. "Now what on earth d'ya imagine I'd be wanting," replied that gentle parfit knight, "with your cunting parents?"
Hats aloft, finally, to the editor of BBC1's Question Time for a panel boasting not only Lembit Opik but also Simon Heffer, whose booking must have been timed to mark the 40th anniversary of his hero Enoch Powell's keynote address. A word of caution, though. We all understand the pressure to chase ratings. Of course we do. But a flagship current affairs discussion show cannot be a beauty pageant every week.
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