Diary: Craig Oliver's special spin on the Sound of Music
Friday 04 February 2011
As the two halves of my torn betting slip lay forlornly in the wastepaper basket, I wasn't the only one scratching my head and wondering who Craig Oliver is. Even Westminster's most experienced hacks described Andy Coulson's replacement as a man without a past. Yet how swiftly such a past can be cobbled together when Fleet Street's finest are on the case. Here, for your continued enjoyment, is a picture you'll surely be seeing more of: Oliver in lederhosen at a so-called "BBC charity event".
Meanwhile, one reader of this column was so quick off the mark with a scurrilous email about Craig's father (let's just say that it involves "troosers", a car and a "young lady") that I almost suspect that "Pete from Aberdeen" is a pseudonym for a rival spinner such as Labour's Tom Baldwin. But that, surely, would be unthinkable?
* Monday's football transfer shenanigans seem yet more spectacularly misjudged in the context of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's imminent investigation into football governance. "We'll be taking evidence from some interesting characters," agrees committee member Alan Keen, also the chair of the All Party Football Group (you'll recall him from yesterday's column). Sadly, the committee only has powers to compel witnesses to attend if they're domiciled in this country – which, by my count, precludes the owners of Manchester's United and City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City, Sunderland and Aston Villa. Still, they could definitely get Mike Ashley. Do they serve beer?
* What, I wonder, did equality minister Lynne Featherstone make of the Sky sexism row? The lovely Lynne seemed flattered to be named "Most Fanciable MP" in a Sky poll last year, and her male colleagues concur. I'm told one beer-swilling Lib Dem parliamentarian recently declared, Andy Gray-like, that a call from the honey-voiced Featherstone is "pretty much as good as phone sex".
* To the Shaw Theatre, to hear Gilbert & George discuss their latest exhibition of "Urethra Postcard Art". The conceptual art veterans also provided some hints about their next project, to be named "Vultures". It was inspired, they explained, by a waiter at their favourite Kurdish restaurant, who comes from an easily mispronounced region which I could only assume was Uyghuristan, in the greater Turkestan region of Central Asia, now part of China (thanks, Google). Said waiter, said Gilbert and/or George, loves vultures (his region's official bird) so they gave him a vulture-shaped hand puppet as a gift. Now, whenever he serves them, he "flies" it to them while wearing the puppet. The best ideas, they claimed, always come "out of the blue". You probably had to be there.
* An earthy coda to yesterday's tale about the late John Barry composing the Goldfinger theme as Michael Caine tried in vain to sleep upstairs. Barry's successor on the Bond movies, David Arnold, recently recalled a phone conversation with his hero: "I rang [John] up and asked, 'What's the secret to a Bond theme?' All he said was, 'Do whatever you like, but never forget – it must always be about cock'."
* I fear my Cotswold correspondent Crispin Mount may require a slap on the wrist – to be administered, in my absence, by his good lady wife Evadne. Last week he sent word of an alleged Conservative conspiracy to subcontract the costly council loos to a company whose MD is a councillor from neighbouring Wiltshire, one Roger "Chuck" Berry. In fact, an amused Chuck writes, "Council contracts are robustly tendered for [and] this sort of favouritism does not go on." Despite charging 20p to spend a penny, Chuck continues, "We are certainly not mega-profitable... [Cotswold District Council] takes about £100k in revenue from the 20ps, which works to lower the cost to local residents as most users are visitors from outside the district." All in all, Crispin, a bargain bathroom break.
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