Has there ever been a more spectacular smash-and-grab raid on any issue than the Daily Mail's thunderous campaign against the plastic carrier bag? Suppressing a wry grin at the chutzpah isn't easy. Papers such as this one bang on about green matters day after day, year after year, while the Mail prefers the insights of such revered global warming sceptics as Richard Littlejohn, Mad Mel Phillips and Professor Tom Utley, FRS, the climatological autodidact who slew false fears about melting ice caps with the observation (regarded in the scientific community as the most important of its kind since Archimedes took his bath) that when the ice in his G&T melts, the liquid doesn't flood over the side of the glass. And then, from nowhere, come 22 pages in the Mail in three days, one of them featuring the byline of Gordon Brown, and whoosh – the paper repositions itself as the leading champion of the cause. Admittedly, it required the twin Middle English engines of hatred of litter and damage to adorable marine life-forms to power this particular flight, but what a flight all the same. Sometimes, however painful, there's nothing for it but to echo Barry Davies's grudging sense of awe at Maradona's virtuoso second goal in the Hand of God game: you have to say that's magnificent.
OF THE myriad celebrity endorsements in the Mail, the standout offering was Michael Parkinson's. "As well as getting supermarkets to stop giving out plastic bags," says Parky, "they need to look at the way they use so much plastic packaging." This obviously comes with tongue firmly in cheek, Parky making a droll coded attack on the Mail group (and yes, I know we all do it) for wrapping its weekend editions in plastic. I assume there must have been a declaration that this will cease forthwith somewhere in the 22 pages, but – as we'll learn at the bottom of this column – I'm not all that hot at reading newspapers.
UNTIL LAST week, the only Mail journalist respected for his commitment to recycling was the dainty veteran sports writer Jeff Powell. Every year or two, Jeff emerges from an interview with Lennox Lewis with the world exclusive revelation that the retired heavyweight champ is poised to return to the ring.
The piece appears on a Saturday, and on the following Monday Jeff follows up with another world exclusive, revealing that the very last thing on Lennox's mind is returning to the ring. The anniversary of the 2007 instalment falls this week. If the news that Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson are contemplating a geriatric rematch isn't the perfect excuse to revive this much-loved Fleet Street tradition, I can't imagine what is.
MEANWHILE, I am concerned for Alan Green, whose self-effacing football commentaries for Radio 5 Live richly justified his induction into a radio Hall of Fame. Mr Green makes no secret of passionately supporting Liverpool, and his sustained fury during the Champions League game against Inter Milan, over the manager's refusal to take his advice and substitute Dirk Kuyt, was remarkable (although to be fair, he did control it better in the closing minutes, after Mr Kuyt had scored the winner). Others at the station find this sort of thing embarrassing, and judging by a letter to a newspaper last week listeners are becoming fatigued by it too. For years, Mr Green has been shielded from his colleagues' contempt by controller Bob Shennan, another Liverpool fan. But he recently moved on, and we wait to see whether his replacement, Adrian Van Klaveren, a Spurs supporter who takes over in April, will be equally protective.
HAVING recently drawn attention to the US comic Sarah Silverman's video billet doux ("I'm Fucking Matt Damon") to her chat show boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel, balance demands that I mention the response ("I'm Fucking Ben Affleck", also on YouTube). The particular pleasure here is spotting the likes of Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz and Harrison Ford showing the world how they enjoy teasing themselves now that Dennis Pennis has been retired. God help us when this nascent trend of self-parodying celebs in ironic tribute videos arrives here, in about six weeks. But if anyone tries to stick Huw Edwards in a Daffyd one-piece, à la Affleck, this column will take the dimmest view. Even with mirth and merriment, there must always be limits.
THE BEST of British to Conrad Black as he enters his Florida prison today. And thanks to the Telegraph's James Quinn for this insight about his erstwhile guv'nor. "Black's life inside will be a far cry", writes James, "from his existence on the outside." No private jets, hosting parties for Princess Michael or Cardinal Richelieu outfits in jug then? Who'd have known?
THE MOST grovelling apologies, finally, to the Daily Mirror and its editor, Richard Wallace, for last week's lead item, which somehow contrived to state that Gordon Brown's house bulletin limited its initial coverage on the Northern Rock nationalisation to page 17. In fact, as Richard emails to point out, it covered the story in depth. I cannot go into any detail (that would pre-empt the wide-ranging internal inquiry) as to how such an imbecilic blunder might have been made.
But Richard's best guess is that someone on my team (a team, I should mention, of approximately one) somehow mistook the Tuesday paper for the one published on Monday. An absolute shocker.