Diary: Big shoes for Morgan...
Thursday 09 December 2010
To the Mandarin Oriental, where Piers Morgan was hosting his own farewell bash, before setting sail for America to take over CNN's interview show from Larry King. Duncan Bannatyne was in strident form as he regaled me, at some length, with his views on tax avoidance.
"Ten per cent of people in this room don't pay tax," he said, in that perpetually irate-sounding Scots brogue of his. "The people who do pay tax are the barmen." Bannatyne recently wrote a newspaper column revealing the non-dom status of his fellow Dragons' Den star James Caan, much to the latter's chagrin. Has he won Caan round to his point of view? "I can't. He still doesn't speak to me." Morgan, meanwhile, was his usual incorrigible self. Of his inevitable (he thinks) Stateside success, he claimed: "Half the people will tune in because they hate me." Won't you miss your charming new wife, I enquired. "Can't wait to see the back of her," he shot back. "It's been six months; it's time for a change." His predecessor, King, has been married eight times. Big shoes to fill.
* Despite the WikiLeaks-induced data lockdown at the US State Department, I'm glad to report that Secretary Clinton's media team are still issuing press releases. Such as this one, from Tuesday: "The US is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day event 2011 ... The theme for next year's commemoration will be '21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers'. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals' right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information." Who says the Yanks have no sense of humour?
* Glamour model-bothering Lembit Opik, former member for Montgomeryshire, has got wind of my sitcom idea, Anyone But Lembit, in which he plays himself striving in vain to win the Lib Dem mayoral candidacy. Each week, the party begs a more London-friendly figure to throw their hat into the ring (Episode Four: Bob Crow). "Dear Ken," writes Lembit, fresh off the plane from Australia, "[It] sounds like a very interesting idea (although do you think your idea regarding me being chased by a bevy of weathergirls will work? The last thing I'd want to do is damage my credibility at this sensitive stage of my career)... Basically it's time, as John Major once said, to 'put up or shut up'. If you've got the industry contacts to make this happen, let's talk! Kindest Regards, Lembit." Actually, Lem, I'm afraid the treatment hasn't gained much traction at BBC3, Channel 4 or ITV2. Shall I try Channel Five?
* Strange that C4 hasn't jumped at the idea, since it's happy to screen tonight's tedious The House That Made Me: Boy George. The programme was originally enlivened, an indiscreet TV reviewer tells me, by a scene in which George has a hissy fit at the production crew, angrily pacing his mansion and refusing to take part in any further filming. Sadly, C4 called to confess they'd sent the wrong version to critics, and the unedifying tantrum had been quietly cut from the broadcast version. YouTube, do your worst.
* Mess with Jamie Byng and you mess with his whole family. The Canongate publisher's plan to release a million books into the world for free on World Book Night met with derision from less-angry-lately Times columnist Giles Coren, who declared on Saturday that it put him in mind of "young Germans in 1933 gathered round flaming piles of books at the Opernplatz in Berlin". Byng's stepfather, the estimable Sir Christopher Bland – former chair of the BBC governors – wrote to The Times to defend the scheme. He also highlighted Coren's claim to have read 47 of the titles being given away, despite there being only 25 books on the list. Coren followers may suspect the hand of a vengeful sub-editor.
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