Diary: It's war, but both Fox and Hague have gone Awol
Monday 28 March 2011
The most languid political sack race in memory crawls forward, with Downing Street briefing viciously against two leading candidates via well-connected hacks. It fell to our former colleague Ian Birrell, who as a friend of and sometime-speechwriter for David Cameron seems unlikely to speak out of turn, to suggest that William Hague be replaced at the Foreign Office by Paddy Ashdown, and demoted to party chairman instead. Yet if Billy 14 Pints has the same influence over what passes for foreign policy as Vernon Kay, Liam Fox seems equally impotent at Defence. The good doctor has been frozen out of the "war cabinet", the Mail on Sunday reveals, with his contribution limited (I paraphrase a little) to brushing George Osborne's Bullingdon topper. It's difficult to see how Foxy's counterstrike – ignoring the limitations of UNSCR 1973 and his leader's wishes to repeat his insistence that Gaddafi must be removed – will help him. Some will think it peculiar, at a time of war, for both Foreign and Defence Secretaries to be missing in action. I prefer to see this timely reversion to sofa government as Mr Cameron prosecuting his Heir to Blair claims. Whether the legacy will delight him for long, time alone will tell.
* As for the other sack race co-favourite, Kenneth Clarke awoke refreshed from his nap to impart, of Libya: "I am still not totally convinced that anyone knows where we are going now." This won't have thrilled Downing Street, yet for once Ken showed restraint. For anyone tempted to ask Mr Cameron about his Libyan strategy, let me translate the official answer into Fawltyese: you might as well ask the No 10 cat.
* From one determinedly modest public figure to another, and Geoffrey Boycott's thoughts on cricketer Michael Yardy's depression. For dismissing this as Mr Yardy merely becoming aware, thanks to Geoffrey himself, that he isn't a great spin bowler, he is attacked as an insensitive narcissist. Cobblers. Geoffrey, whose 1996 conviction for beating up his mistress in France was upheld on appeal, and who later said he was never angrier than when another girlfriend decided to keep his baby, is a sensitive soul. Indeed, he is a great believer – this is not a joke – in feng shui, once advising Michael Vaughan to reverse his poor form by moving the furniture. If only he had shown Mr Yardy that the problem lay in the misarrangement of artefacts and pictures in the communal areas outside his sub-continental hotel rooms. For no cricketer can thrive, as Geoffrey likes to observe, in a corridor of uncertainty.
* I've said it before and I'll say it again. With Sarah Palin finished, look out for her successor as the Creationist-doolally Republican candidate. Her name is Michele Bachmann, she's running for President, and it can't be long before Tina Fey does her on Saturday Night Live. Let the merriment begin.
* For patriots who prefer their certifiable right-wing fun home-grown, there is no news of Melanie Phillips. We hoped the Metropolitan Police would have decided by now whether to prosecute Mad Mel for her blogged insights into the "savagery" and "moral depravity" of "the Arabs". But it seems the Met has been too busy with demos and apologies connected with the Night Stalker. Next week, perhaps.
* With the happy day imminent, the BBC's royal-wedding anchor gives a "commentary masterclass" to a bunch of schoolgirls on its website.
"It takes a long time, several months," Huw Edwards explains of his preparations. "I've been looking at royal weddings going back to 1973, Princess Anne." Here, a clip is appended of Tom Fleming intoning: "The bride, and she's looking very lovely. It's a dress of white, pure silk, specially woven for Princess Anne." Will several months be enough to master these Byzantine complexities?
Only if Huw eschews the renaissance-man approach to reading out loud. If he elects to drive the carriage, carry the bridal train, nudge Rowan Williams aside at the altar, etc, it may get tricky. "We've learnt today," a pupil concludes, "that being a news presenter isn't just about reading from the script." Girls, Huw taught us fans that a long time ago.
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