Matthew Norman's Media Diary

A base slur on the blessed Shami

Much like coppers and villains, there has never been that much to choose between hacks and politicians. They speak the same language, drink in the same bars, get up to the same mischief (or would if the old expenses culture persisted in newspapers), so it's no surprise that they sometimes switch between trades. Yet where disgraced ministers like David Blunkett take fortunes from their chums to write bad columns (we'll come to Rebekah Wade below), and while journalists are frequently tempted by politics (we'll come to Kelvin MacKenzie below), the embryonic career move embarked on last week by Andy Burnham is a novelty.

As well as possessing what's officially ranked (after Eric Joyce's) as New Labour's second brownest nose, Andy is an unnerving young chap whose long, apparently mascara-drenched eyelashes suggest a more feminine version of Worzel Gummidge's love object, Aunt Sally. But that needn't concern us now. What concerns us is Andy insinuating that anti-42 day detention allies David Davis and Shami Chakrabarti, with their "late night, hand-wringing, heart-melting" phone calls, are having an affair.

Doubtless this is me being pompous, but it's quite a thing when the minister overseeing newspaper standards deploys Wicked Whispers-style innuendo to smear political opponents. I hesitate to use the words "infantile twat" about one of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State, but not for long. Regardless of how any libel action against him might pan out, Andy must know that if he offends our most adored Shami again, he can expect the sort of indefensible intrusion into every aspect of his life that is traditionally the domain of those Sunday red tops which seem more his natural workplace than the cabinet table.



As for Rebekah Wade, her singular talent for ingratiation continues to impress. It isn't everyone who can go from arriving at Elisabeth Murdoch's Christmas party on Tony Blair's arm in 2006 to attending Sarah Brown's Chequers "pyjama party" 18 months later. Rebekah has, and with all the wordless efficiency of Eurasia switching allegiance from Eastasia to Oceania. She's a schmoozer of genius, and only when she makes the inevitable move to running the public relations side of News International will she come into her own.



And so to Kelvin MacKenzie, whose by-election bid was so tragically aborted last week. The oldest playground bully in town claims it was nothing so trivial as The Sun recognising a huge misreading of the public mood (albeit the paper's tone towards David Davis softened dramatically). He says he chickened out after being overheard describing Hull as "an absolute shocker". I have long been worried about Kelvin's memory loss, possibly due to snoring-induced, early-onset Alzheimer's, but the failure to recall never having set foot in that city takes concerns to a new level. As Peter Wilby sagely observed in The Guardian last week, there are far too many general columnists such as myself who know nothing about anything, but writing off cities we've never visited sets a new mark. Best stick to recycling those hilarious gags about Heather Mills's stump, Kelvin, until the confidence returns.



Radio highlight of the week came, as so often, from Victoria Derbyshire. "Sorry, this is a daft question," she began an interview on Thursday's Radio 5 Live phone-in about the break-outs from Campsfield House detention centre in Oxfordshire, "but you're not supposed to escape from this kind of place?" What, from a detention centre? Daft question? Not a bit of it.



By way of one of those startling changes of pace that keep her Daily Mail column so fresh, Melanie Phillips gets herself into the most frightful strop. This time it's classified documents left on trains, although she concludes that the files were not mislaid on purpose. "Such suggestions surely belong," she soberly observes, "to the realm of spy fiction." I know it's not always easy, but sub-editors really must reach the end of her copy before writing the headline. "One lost top secret file is embarrassing," ran this pleasingly elliptical effort. "But two in a week? I fear something more sinister's going on." You simply have to show Mad Mel's work more respect than that.



A fond farewell to Dr Raj Persaud, who won't be having much luck now as a media tart even if his career practising psychiatry survives. The Mail's coverage of his downfall was quick to mention that he used to appear on Richard & Judy, and if the tone was faintly sneering you can't blame it for that. What kind of self-respecting media outlet wouldn't see through such a transparent charlatan? "50 copies of Staying Sane by Dr Raj Persaud to be won," enticed a Daily Mail offer in 2001. "Win a copy of Dr Raj Persaud's latest book," ran another two years later. Still, at least the Mail had cut back to 10 copies of the good doctor's (and God alone knows who else's) From The Edge Of The Couch. They saw the writing on the wall.



Staying with mental health practitioners – finally, good luck to Ruby Wax as she trains to become a psychotherapist. Ruby isn't the first high-profile media figure to make a more palatable career switch than Andy Burnham's, of course. Michael Green, possibly seeking redemption for doing so much to destroy commercial television as chairman of Carlton TV, has made the same move. There is no word yet on how Greeny's getting on, but the last time we bumped into him, in a London restaurant on New Year's Day, he seemed very chipper, so fingers crossed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Ashdown Group: .NET Developer : ASP.NET , C# , MVC , web development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits - see advert: Ashdown Group: .N...

Guru Careers: 3D Package Designer / 3D Designer

£25 - 30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an exceptional 3D Package Designer / 3...

Guru Careers: Interior Designer

£Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a strong Middleweight / Senior Inte...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world