Diary: Sky's the limit for Oliver
Thursday 26 May 2011
Alleged hip-hop fan and Downing Street spin chief Craig Oliver doubtless enjoyed a few fist bumps with colleagues yesterday, following the televisual feast that was the No 10 barbecue. Oliver – a former BBC employee – is renowned primarily as a "pictures man", and a shirt-sleeved Dave and Barry serving burgers to servicemen was perhaps the most striking image he has generated since joining the PM's staff (or at least since his first day, when he graced the press corps with this classic, right). Yet the course of media handling never did run smooth and Oliver made at least one influential hack unhappy yesterday. Sky News political correspondent Glen Oglaza was giddy with excitement after being assigned the opening question of the post-BBQ press conference, only to have it snatched from him cruelly at the last moment by Oliver's shiny-domed BBC chum Nick Robinson.
"Selected to ask the first question then de-selected," Oglaza tweeted. "Outrageous!" And then, just seconds later: "Have had my question stolen by Downing St... Disgraceful." The BBC and ITN were both granted a question, as were a pair of US broadcasters. Sky, however, was left twisting in the wind like a ketchup-soiled napkin.
* Naturally, I have spent the last few days conducting an exhaustive search for tenuously Ryan Giggs-related innuendo – all in the public interest, of course. Yesterday, I learned that the previous owner of the Giggs residence in Worsley, near Salford, was one Mary Wibberley, whose charming Victorian home was bulldozed in 2005 to make way for the Giggs family's £3m (or thereabouts) red-brick mansion in the popular "Travelodge" style, including a glass tower and a swimming pool with a Welsh dragon mosaic feature. Ms Wibberley, who described the renovation as "a waste of a beautiful house", was once a leading author of romance novels for Mills & Boon, whose bestselling titles include: A Dangerous Man, Savage Love and Love's Sweet Revenge.
* What are the challenges of being an effective minister? So asked Tuesday evening's panel at the Institute of Government, where Lord Adonis illustrated the first rule of ministerial effectiveness with a vivid anecdote from his days in the cabinet: be memorable. Recalling one of Tony Blair's more painful reshuffles, Adonis revealed that the then-PM was told he'd have to sack one of his ministers. Blair, however, could not remember what the doomed fellow looked like, so asked to see a photo. When one was brought to him, the Great Man took one look at the picture and said: "Is he still in the government? I thought we sacked him years ago!" Sadly the sackee remains anonymous, though former Downing Street insiders are invited to identify him via the above email address. Incidentally, the second rule of ministerial effectiveness is as follows: Don't be too memorable.
* A roar of defiance from the unlikely orifice of Tim Farron, mild-mannered Lib Dem president and Lembit Opik's erstwhile flatmate. Farron (hailed by optimists as the party's future saviour) has issued a post-local election call to arms to his beleaguered colleagues, much like Churchill after Dunkirk. "Journalists and non-political friends keep coming up to me with pained expressions, asking if I'm all right, speaking to me as if I've just suffered a bereavement," Farron writes for Liberal Democrat Voice. "I smile back and tell them to get stuffed – I'm used to two things as a Liberal this last 25 years: 1. losing stuff, 2. not giving up!" The man is a born leader.
* After the silliness of super-injunctions, the House of Lords returns to more serious and substantial matters. Lord Jay this week demanded to know what plans the Government had in store for the stuffed anaconda that resides in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office library. "Albert, the 20-foot-long stuffed anaconda, has graced the Foreign and Commonwealth Office library for over a century," replied the FCO minister Lord Howell. "He remains proudly in place, just as he did throughout the noble Lord's distinguished career in the FCO, and continues to be held in great affection by FCO staff. We have no plans for Albert other than to clean and stuff him from time to time."
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