Matthew Norman's Media Diary: Why the hounding of Glitter must stop

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The Independent Online

And so it goes on, this unutterably obscene danse macabre, as The Sun chases Gary Glitter across the country in what seems ever less mistakably a premeditated attempt to bring about his death by his own hand or that of a reader. "You Can Run But You Can't Hide" was one splash headline last week, which was an oddity given Rebekah Wade's obsession with the subject. You'd have thought she might be aware of something called the Sex Offenders Register, which makes hiding very difficult even for paedophiles whose photos aren't in The Sun every day, but apparently not.

We've all witnessed some horrendous abuses of power by that newspaper down the decades, but nothing, I think, as viscerally repulsive as this. A privacy law is the last thing most of us instinctively want, but if there is no other workable method of preventing psychotic bullies from deliberately endangering the safety of those whom they judge to deserve none, it becomes very difficult to resist. We already have a nebulous version, of course, as embedded in the case law handed down by that judicial sweetheart, Mr Justice Eady, in the matter of Max Mosley and the News of the World. It isn't easy to conceive of any action in which he'd find for a newspaper, and while a privacy action brought by a paedophile might present a dilemma, Mr Glitter should bring such a case as soon as possible.

This unending vision of the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable, as George Galloway borrowed from Wilde to put it on his magnificent TalkSport radio phone-in, has endured more than long enough. It needs to end before The Sun devotes another front page to a self-congratulatory paean to its heroic contribution to his violent death.

Speaking of all of which brings me to George's TalkSport colleague Jon Gaunt, who apparently confided to listeners last week that he once ate 25 curries in a weekend. (A tapeworm? A breakdown similar to that of Alan Partridge on the Toblerone?) In the Currant Bun, Gaunty takes a dim view of a previous piece of mine about Mr Glitter's right not to be hunted down like a wild animal. Passing over further signs of his old comprehension problem (something we'll just have to live with until this newspaper is published in a sort of Ladybird Books version), there were some lovely touches in the challenging area of alliteration. "Misguided Matthew" was good, but "Norman the nonce's mate" was a cracker. For all that, I would remind the author of a book subtitled It's Called Great Britain, Not Rubbish Britain, due out in October, of something the Greatest Briton, Not The Most Rubbishy Briton said: that the test of a civilised society is how it treats its convicted criminals. Come on, Gaunty, is a modicum of respect for Churchill so much to ask?

What a week, meanwhile, for Ros Wynne-Jones of the Daily Mirror. Even in a title revered for its torrent of exclusives, she excelled with two belters of her own. The one about a young couple prevented from emigrating to Australia by the reduction in the value of their house was remarkable enough, but as for the other... well, who knew there was someone called Michelle married to Barack Obama, let alone that she'd be saying a few words at the Democratic Convention in Denver?

Good to find Derek Draper carving precious moments from his twin duties advising Labour ministers on communication, and practicing psychotherapy, to advance some recherché ideas on coping with urban stress (have a walk and find a relaxation technique "that works"; failing that, see doctor). Invaluable as such advice is, I worry that, in the selfless cause of bringing succour to people, Derek takes his eye off the ball at home. Apparently, no one's told him that his wife Kate Garraway has taken to the public suckling of farmyard animals. For God's sake, Dolly, you're supposed to be a shrink. Sort it out.

As for Kate's GMTV colleague Fiona Phillips, which of us will forget where we were when we learnt that she is leaving the breakfast sofa? "She's been absolutely wonderful," said GMTV boss Peter McHugh, and so say all of us. Her range is astonishing, but it is as an interviewer of Labour PMs and senior ministers that she will be most fondly recalled, Fiona's style seamlessly welding the rigour and aggression of the 14- year-old fanzine contributor cross-examining her fave boy band, to Jim Naughtie's ear for the killer follow-up question. She will be grievously missed.

The mad Mel Phillips Memorial Keyboard goes, finally, to Gaunty's Sun colleague Fergus Shanahan. Fergus wears a special lucky cardigan when writing his column, and on this form it must have been freshly washed and suffused with that Lenor freshness when he went to Denver for the convention. "It's January 21 2009 and ... Barack Obama has been in office one day," began his lead item. "Iran nukes Israel ... And by the way, the Taliban have just taken power in Pakistan, and seized its nuclear weapons. Your instructions please, Mr President. Is all this too fanciful?"

What, all on the one day? Erm... "No," replies Fergus, and when he explains it like that, you see he's right. Now, if on that same day the Brothers Castro fired a Soviet ballistic missile that had somehow snuck through JFK's blockade at Miami, and Bin Laden commandeered a US nuclear sub and was given the launch codes by Joe Biden, well, maybe then. But just the Taliban sequestering Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and the annihilation of Israel? Fanciful? Nah.