Diary: Coogan's critics are hacked off

The fun-loving comedian Steve Coogan must have been feeling rather pleased with himself when he got the chance to twist the knife into his vanquished foes at the News of the World last Friday night. The comic put in an entertaining turn on BBC2's Newsnight and, such was his antipathy towards the tabloid's former hack Paul McMullan, the old charmer even admirably managed not to be distracted by presenter Emily Maitlis's critically acclaimed calves throughout.

Still, others are less impressed. Step forward Beth Hale at the Daily Mail, who now calmly reminds us that Coogan's "penchant for lap-dancers and taste for class-A drugs" led to him appearing on the News of the World's pages on numerous occasions. Indeed, as well as helpfully listing some of this notorious "sex addict's" cocaine-addled antics of yesteryear, Hale pointedly remarks that "many were taken aback by his fiery, blazing-eyed performance on Friday's Newsnight". (Some have suggested that she was trying, less than subtly, to hint that Coogan's performance was sponsored by Colombian marching powder, but I'm sure that's not the case). So while Coogan is now happy to dish out the abuse, let us, like some of his critics, briefly remember just what kind of deeply flawed human being we are dealing with here. Yes, his phone may have been hacked ... but did he deserve it?

* While Andy Coulson has been having a spot of bother with the Filth, his lesser-known successor in No 10 has doubtlessly been getting on with the job in typically diligent fashion. What with Andy getting his collar felt, critics of our Prime Minister's current spin doctor (one Craig Oliver, in case you have forgotten) should think again before suggesting he is "a bit boring and out of his depth", because we all know what happens when more colourful "characters" get the job. I also trust he will calmly rise above the jibes that he is so dull he "can't even get arrested".

* With Dave's policy guru Steve Hilton facing claims that he was told of Coulson's complicated past before the last election, rumours persist of sinister laughter coming from 11 Downing Street – after all, a certain Mr Osborne's level of affection for Steve is well-known.

* On a similar note, that vain old peacock Lord Ashdown is keen to tell anyone who can be bothered to listen that he was among those warning No 10 about the pitfalls of Coulson's appointment months ago. Mind you, had he got the chance to speak to our Prime Minister personally, the chances of the former Liberal Democrat leader getting a generous hearing would have been slim. After all, Dave has to date made little secret of the fact that old man Pantsdown gets right up his nose. Take a recent Radio 4 interview, when the PM was supposed to be discussing the merits of William Gladstone. "The only problem with Gladstone was that there was something a bit sanctimonious," remarked Dave. "You know, I was going to say Paddy Ashdown with whiskers."



* Having reassured us last autumn that all this phone-hacking malarkey was a load of old leftwing codswallop, Boris Johnson clearly has nothing to apologise for. Indeed, while this so-called "scandal" unravels around us, the nation's favourite philanderer had the perfect platform to put this balderdash to the sword in his weekly Daily Telegraph column yesterday. Yet, ever the man of the people, Boris knew that wasn't what his loyal readers wanted. No, what they wanted to read was the great man's considered thoughts on the modern benefits of ... paintballing.

* As those of you who followed the fortunes of my ill-fated sitcom Anyone But Lembit will be aware, I have never been one to pass on a potential showbiz opportunity when it comes my way. Having been alerted to the fact that the News of the World's star hatchet-man Mazher Mahmood – otherwise known as the Fake Sheik – could be on the lookout for new opportunities, my contacts in the entertainment world assure me that the village fête circuit is "ripe for the taking". Fakey, old son, trust me. I can make this happen.



* Like many of you, I have been thoroughly enjoying the sight of my grumpy golf chum Hugh Grant taking his tabloid tormenters to task. Perhaps if England's finest living actor had put this much effort into certain film roles, critics might not have had such a field day? While Hugh has to date had about as many retirements as the late Frank Sinatra, fans had become increasingly concerned that the old tease might have finally meant it, with no new parts in the pipeline for more than two years. Well, worry not – it has just been confirmed that he is to be the "voice of a pirate captain" in a new cartoon romp called, funnily enough, The Pirates! It's the big comeback for Hugh that we were all waiting for.

highstreetken@independent.co.uk

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