Diary: Nancy's nimble footwork bests Beeb

Matthew Norman on Monday

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The Independent Online

At the time of writing (yesterday), Nancy Dell'Olio's Strictly Come Dancing survival hangs in the balance, but I hope she survived last night. She richly deserved to after all four judges were so much warmer about her efforts on Saturday than the previous week. Even that hatchet man of hoofing Craig Revel-Horwood was incomparably more encouraging in his comments than his score of 3/10 seemed to justify.

We wish to make it clear that this had nothing to do with any instruction from BBC management to pacify Nancy, who had threatened a libel writ over a previous suggestion that she danced under the influence of champagne. That would undermine both the show's credibility and the Beeb's post-Hutton reputation for courage under fire. Unthinkable.

* Concerns grow for the mental stability of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the mildly tyrannical President of Kazakhstan. Given that the danger posed by Mr Tony Blair's friendship is so familiar around the globe (see below), Mr Nazarbayev shows suicidal recklessness in embracing him and his all-star crew of top-ranked consultants.

Not only has Mr Tony been over recently, but so have Jonathan Powell and Alastair Campbell. Unusually with a public outing, Ali has refused to share this one with his blog. But then, this philanthropic trio seems strangely reticent about its Kazakh dealings.

All a Blair spokesman will say is that the ex-PM's "team of international advisers" – and aren't they quite the Harlem Globetrotters of dictator schmoozing? – is doing "excellent" work, while denying reports of a $13m deal and insisting that Mr Tony – but this I think you'll already have guessed – "is not personally making a profit".

Whatever first attracted Mr Tony to the billionaire "lifetime leader" of an oil-and-gas-rich central Asian republic remains anyone's guess. But if it was that selfless desire to shepherd a despot with a gruesome human rights record towards the sunlit uplands of international respectability, who will argue with that? It certainly worked wonders for the Colonel.

 

* Speaking of whom, hats aloft to the political blogger Mr Eugenides for a searingly original and rightly lauded tweet on Blairite matedom. "Mubarak, Murdoch, now Gaddafi ... One by one, Tony Blair's friends are meeting grisly ends. If I were Cliff Richard I'd be shitting myself." Some carp about bloggers being derivative, but I can't see that myself.

 

* Top of my Christmas stocking wish list is You Can't Say That, the memoir in which the stupendously fertile Ken Livingstone reveals how he fathered several children by women fretful of the biological clock.

Ken long ago jettisoned his popular late night chat-up line ("Oh, come home with me, darlin', I'm like a broomstick in the morning") for uxorious respectability, so thank heaven for this reminder of a livelier past. Whether he is more or less fecund than his mayoral rival Boris Johnson seems an exquisitely well-balanced conundrum. Speaking as a Londoner, I suspect my vote will come down to a last-second, ballot-box hunch about the answer to this question: if the planet required repopulating after an extinction-level event, is it Ken or Boris you'd rather God cast as the new Adam?

 

* Pray that Jacob Rees-Mogg doesn't damage himself by defying the whip in tomorrow's big vote ... not so soon after confirming his rich ministerial promise. On Friday during a debate about all-women shortlists, Jacob illustrated his contempt for the concept by citing Elizabeth I's success despite any positive discrimination. Absolutely right. She worked her way up to the throne from nowhere like any other self-respectingly meritocratic hereditary sovereign. Jacob's point may have been the most brilliant heard in the Commons for 15 years, since Tory uber-haddock Baroness Knight argued against frozen embryos on the grounds that the pastry in her freezer went off after a few months.

 

* Good to see The Sun lionising Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge by running extracts of his speech on the importance of a free and independent press. Last year, the top-ranked double-namer Judge Judge headed The Sun's rogues gallery of idiotic judicial softies for his remarks about the need to take wretched prison conditions into account when passing sentence. Now he's a genius. In Murdoch world, the principle of rehabilitation thrives, and the quality of mercy is ne'er strained.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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