It is the way of humanity to seek consolation in turbulent times, and of the silver linings visible within these blackest of economic rain clouds the most impressively hallmarked is the increased media presence of Irwin Stelzer. That bristly moustache is almost a fixture on comment pages of The Times and The Daily Telegraph and all over telly – and so it should be when you consider his track record as an economic and political analyst. The triumph of the neo-con movement, of which Irwin is a sprat in America but a whale this side of the pond, speaks for itself. As for his stout opposition to regulating financial markets this is triumphantly vindicated. So no wonder that media outlets adore a seer of seers whose gravitas devolves entirely from his track record, and not one iota from any closeness to his friend, former next-door neighbour and overlord beyond the seas Rupert Murdoch. Now there are those cynics and sneerers who regard Irwin as a slightly less comical version of Woodrow Wyatt – a parasitic useful idiot who runs such trivial errands for his master as passing on the order to Tony Blair to promise referendum on the euro, sends coded messages about Rupert's expectations through columns, and generally acts as the oil that keeps the relationship between News Corporation and our Government adequately greased. I find this portrayal of Irwin as consigliere to Rupert's don, Suslov to his Stalin or Terry McCann to his Arthur Daley most insulting. Whether stoutly defending Enron or lionising Sarah Palin, despite her ignorance of the Bush Doctrine that lies at the heat of his own neo-con philosophy, this is a titanic figure in his own right, and we look to those branches of the media that treasure his work to use him even more. We have much to learn.
HOWEVER FACETIOUS that portrayal of Irwin as a Murdoch mouthpiece, all attempts to dismiss Alastair Campbell as a crude Labour propagandist are sillier still, especially now that he seems to favour the Tories. Talking to the excellent Richard Bacon on Radio 5 Live, Ali used subliminal messaging to attack Gordon Brown. First he likened Labour's problems to those facing the Conservatives before the 1992 election, cunningly reminding us that the Tories won by ditching an unpopular leader some 18 months beforehand, and just as loyalists were warning that a global crisis (the imminent Gulf War) was no time for a change. Then, less subtly, he compared David Cameron's poll lead with the pre-1997 Mr Tony Blair. The genius will never fade.
ANOTHER LIVELY week for Noel Edmonds. At the time of writing, it isn't clear whether he has or hasn't paid his BBC licence fee in protest at the TV commercials warning people of the legal penalties for failing to do so, but this business of enforcing the law of the land is understandably distasteful to old-fashioned liberals like Nolly, who demands an absolute ban on all immigration. Also uncertain is whether he takes this heroic stance on civil disobedience from the two golden orbs that follow him everywhere. Noel claims that these spheres contain the souls of his dead parents, but a rival theory posits that they are in fact Toklafane, the murderous, floating metallic globes the Master deployed as law enforcement when he seized control of the earth at the end of the 2007 series of Doctor Who. Nolly tells us that he has many photos, and when the Cartier-Bresson of spectral photography displays them in a major exhibition we may be in a better position to decide.
I AM DISTRESSED by a Daily Mail diary item claiming that Jim Naughtie fears he is being sidelined as a Today presenter by the emergence of Evan Davis. What nonsense. Evan's grasp of economics may be especially useful at the minute, and we adored his brutal suppression of Hilary Benn's attempt to give out a freephone number offering people help with heating bills. Even so, Jim's a very clever and endearing chap who has been around a long time, and even those of us who are occasionally irritated by verbosity will be even more irked by the prospect of his disappearance. All he needs to do is chill out a little, and understand that we tease him because we love him.
THE AWARD for Daily Mirror Exclusive of the Week goes to Julie McCaffrey for "Prime Importance", a double-page spread about the PM supporting a campaign about knife crime. Once again we marvel at the paper's uncanny knack for protecting so many scoops – in this case about a Daily Mirror campaign – out of the rapacious hands of its rivals.
A THRILLING double reinvention in The Sun, finally, where favourite columnist Jon Gaunt launches a ram raid on the effete world of food writing. Gaunty was sent a free copy of Jamie Oliver's new cookbook, and "the nosh has been out of this world... We've had the stir-fry, pork sweet and sour" (I love that Gallic inversion, after the fashion of sauce Béarnaise) "and the beef with black bean sauce." Every dish cooked by Lisa and the young Misses Gaunty has been superb, he reports, adding: "I think Jamie has reinvented the culinary wheel." What, with pork sweet and sour? I'll say he has, whatever those skinny latte-drinking, truffle oil-drizzling, arugula-chewing metropolitan snobs might care to think.