Ian Burrell: Heroes and chickens at Pride of Britain

On the Radar
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The Independent Online

Will the chicken be there? That is the question. For the first time in its 12-year history, the Daily Mirror's Pride of Britain awards this November will be attended by a Tory Prime Minister. David Cameron has accepted the invitation in spite of having been doggedly pursued around the election trail by a Mirror man in a yellow-feathered costume. The PM no doubt realises that the event, shown on ITV1, out-rates the Baftas and the Brits, achieving the highest audience of any awards show last year, with some 6.6 million viewers.

Hosted by Carol Vorderman, the Pride of Britain awards recognise the achievements of "real people" and are a welcome alternative to the celebrity backslapping normal at such events. "Nominate Your Unsung Hero," demands its website.

How about the Mirror celebrates its own unsung hero, Peter Willis, the associate editor? He cooked up the thing in the first place, during the editorship of Piers Morgan. "I came up with the idea at a think tank with Piers when I first joined," he says. "I never intended to do it; it was just to get me through the think tank." Morgan is no longer a Mirror guest, obviously, but that didn't stop him turning up last year in his new role of international TV celebrity, with Frank Lampard in tow. That was the night the footballer met his girlfriend Christine Bleakley. She is now with ITV's Daybreak, which is profiling all the finalists. I'm told one of the winners gets to be "surprised" by Russell Brand. Let's hope he or she enjoys that experience more than did dear old Andrew Sachs.

* Meanwhile next year's Brits are being planned with massive ambition by Universal chairman David Joseph. Talks are under way with Boris Johnson to get the London Underground working through the night, provided the Tube strikes are sorted in time for February's awards. This New Year's Eve-style transport arrangement – the last train normally leaves at 12:16am – would be remarkable for what is basically a music industry bash. But some bash. The new venue, the 20,000-capacity O2, is far bigger than the previous home at Earl's Court. And Joseph, the new Brit Awards chairman, wants to fill the front rows with fans, rather than his fellow music-industry executives who traditionally chatter and booze their way through proceedings at well-appointed tables. The O2 also wants to offer its 26 bars and restaurants for on-site record industry after-parties, which have previously been held in distant parts of the capital. Despite Jonathan Ross's protestations that hosting the Brits would be a "poisoned chalice", I understand he is still the preferred option in the role. I suppose that even on his reduced ITV salary, Jonathan will be no more likely than this year's Brits star Lady Gaga to be using the Jubilee Line as his carriage home.

* Meanwhile Sly Bailey, the chief executive of Trinity Mirror, will next Tuesday be making what promises to be a tub-thumping speech in defence of the regional press, which – as these pages reported last week – is staging something of a fightback. I love the way her publicity material always says she has been "named as one of Britain's most influential women by the Daily Mail," and wonder if the Mail has yet tracked down the writer responsible for the quote. Tuesday's talk is at the Foreign Press Association in London.

* The thrill of diving is partly based on the fear of encountering scary seaborne creatures in the oceanic depths. And well might members of a recent press trip have been fearful as they descended towards German Minesweeper P31, scuttled off the coast of Malta. For down on the seabed, 22 metres below sea-level, they came across the shape of the BBC's combative head of press and media relations, Paul Mylrea, who had turned up under his own fins. Cue the theme tune to Jaws. Diving fanatic Mylrea, recently seen ranting at the media press corps ahead of BBC director-general Mark Thompson's lecture to the Edinburgh Television Festival, posed for a picture with the hacks on an underwater bench, presumably briefing them by means of hand signals in the process. The image will appear in Dive magazine.