Matthew Norman's Media Diary
So, Arthur Daley is back. Dolly good show!
Monday 21 July 2008
Well, well, hello, Dolly. Well, hello Dolly. It's so nice to have you back where you belong! Yes, Derek Draper has returned, and it would be an affront to decency not to welcome him in song. If ever a dazzling media figure had the capacity to reverse Labour's fortunes by teaching MPs how to communicate, it is this remarkable renaissance figure ... a man as adept at treating psychic pain with New Age crystals as with more conventional tools; and a member, with wife Kate Garraway, of Britain's favourite powerhouse media couple since Rebekah and Ross Wade so sadly split asunder.
Speaking personally, Derek's political comeback offers an insight into Clemmie's emotions when Churchill was reappointed First Lord of the Admiralty in 1939. Nicknamed after a 1950s East Ender telling his moll "Here's 50 notes, Dolly, get yourself something pretty to wear", his mastery of media manipulation was clearly apparent in his early days as Peter Mandelson's best little helper. A favourite memory concerns his response to a diary item about Faber & Faber's frustrated attempts, over several months, to contact him about £500 he owed them ... an oversight that earned him the epithet "New Labour's very own Arthur Daley". Just after 6am that day, Dolly sang "Arthur Daley E's Alright", The Firm's 1982 novelty hit, into the answerphone. Every verse and chorus. For three-and-a-half minutes. There are other fond memories, and perhaps we'll touch on them in the autumn. In the meantime, just like Barbra Streisand herself, he's back for one positively final tour, and we couldn't be more thrilled that you're looking swell, Dolly. We can tell, Dolly. You're still glowin', you're still crowin', you're still going strong!
Making a barely less pleasing comeback, meanwhile, is Esther Rantzen. She's everywhere at the minute plugging her splendid new book If Not Now, When? (How Can I Grow Old Disgracefully If No One Will Give Me A Seeing To?) (Pifco Press, £12.99) ... everywhere, at least, except where she wants to be, back on telly patronising pinheads on stools while fondling penile root vegetables. Apart from fulfilling her duties as a member of the Daily Mail's vast stable of semi-retired old nags (see Rosie Boycott below), Esther is interviewed in The Daily Telegraph where she dwells not for the first time on the loss of her husband – Queen Victoria got over it quicker – and much besides. If Esther does have a failing – and this can't be said often enough – it's that she cares too much, and she deserves a small return on the happiness she has given us down the years.
This week's apology for staggering incompetence goes to all concerned in last week's item about the effete world of the gentleman's magazine. Bespoke underpants-wearer Mansel Jones is not leaving Esquire, as stated here, but joining it. The confusion stemmed from an inability to distinguish him from someone called Robert, who is leaving Esquire. Many will say that, given the popularity of Mansel as a Christian name, it was a natural mistake. But you can't help feeling that there are maggot-infested watermelons on the roadsides of Sao Paulo that would do this job better than me.
Depressing to note the omission of Huw Edwards from a new list of our top five sexiest newscasters in which Eamonn Holmes, who doesn't read the news, is fourth. The problem is easily corrected. In addition to his other duties writing, directing, producing, editing and reading the news out loud, operating the cameras, cleaning the studio and maintaining the White City transmitters, Huw has taken to doing his own make up (and, curiously, Robert Peston's). If he can give that up, there's every chance he'll be challenging the late Peter Woods for fifth spot in next year's poll.
And so to Rosie Boycott, whose Daily Mail career recanting every belief she ever had goes from strength to strength. The week that passes without Rosie explaining why she was entirely wrong about something is a week wasted, but it is her denials of feminism that impress most. Last week's "Feminist Finds Herself Silently Agreeing That Family Rights Could Be Harming Women's Careers" was a classic (albeit not so silent, really, if it's all over the Mail). This was arguably her most original effort since April's "Men aren't keeping women from reaching the top – we just don't want THAT kind of success" (what kind? Editing newspapers?). Or possibly "Why women don't want top jobs, by a feminist" (March). Or maybe "Feminism has turned men into second-class citizens, but have women's victories come at a price?" (February). Or even ... but no, that's enough of that.
Mention of Rosie brings us, finally, to cannabis, the legalisation of which she famously no longer desires. Nor, it seems, does Simon Heffer, who has been corresponding with the actor and author Neil Pearson on the relative demerits of booze and dope. I'm surprised and a little distressed, frankly, to discover that Mr Pearson takes such a laissez-faire approach to the perils of the weed, but that's by the by. More to the point is that the long-awaited sequel to Simon's wistful memoir, dealing in more detail with his time at Oxford, is out in a few weeks, and rumour holds that it contains startling revelations about youthful experimentation. Son Of PC Gone Madder! This Time He's Proper Deranged (Reefer Books) will be our new Book of the Month when I return to this page next month.
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