Diary: The joke's on you, Ben

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The Independent Online

Ben Elton probably thought he'd escaped the sneers of anyone who has seen We Will Rock You, and plenty of people who haven't, when he fled Down Under two years ago to set up home in Fremantle with his Australian wife, Sophie. Sadly, that dream has died with the demise of his new comedy sketch show, Ben Elton: Live From Planet Earth, after a mere three episodes. However, I'd imagine that before the allegedly execrable programme ever reached the screen, Elton had ruffled some feathers by suggesting that what he'd "actually love to do is an all-Aussie sitcom. We do great drama in this country," he told an interviewer before the doomed launch of Live From Planet Earth, "but we haven't done a sitcom for a long time... You would have to look as far back as Mother and Son [which ended in 1994] as the last good one." One wonders what the creators of, say, critically acclaimed comedies Kath & Kim (2002-2008) and Summer Heights High (2007), made of Elton's short-lived attempt to enhance their nation's laughter industry.

* Gavin Shuker, Labour's honourable member for Luton South, demonstrated his sophisticated eye for graphic design yesterday, tweeting: "When I receive an email from another MP written in Comic Sans, I wonder about our politics." The faux-childlike Comic Sans font is abhorred by aesthetes the world over, including its own remorseful creator, Vincent Connare – but some ignorant souls still seem to find it charming. One of these is disgraced former Labour MP David Chaytor, who this week appealed his jail sentence for expenses fraud. An email to journalists from Chaytor, responding to questions about his fraudulent claims when the scandal first broke, was written in the aberrant font (he'd be convicted in the court of public opinion for that alone). Shuker was unwilling to reveal the name of the MP responsible for yesterday's abomination. Luckily, the email referenced in his tweet was copied to rather a large group of Labour MPs, not all of whom are quite so discreet. I can, therefore, exclusively reveal that the offending Comic Sans user was none other than the Rt Hon Alun Michael, ex-First Secretary for Wales. For shame, Mr Michael, for shame.

* A new and somewhat inconvenient detail to add to my notional screenplay for that joint biopic of Chancellor George – né Gideon – Osborne and his shadow, Ed Balls (working title: A Cock and Balls). The Sun reports that Labour leader Miliband (E) had in fact asked his brother Miliband (D) to replace Alan Johnson beside him on the front bench, before being forced to turn to the less savoury Balls. This means some changes to the villainous Gideon's dialogue, as it seems he was more generous than necessary during their first dispatch box encounter. "Now both [Balls] and the leader of the opposition know what it's like to be people's second choice," Gids crowed. Make that third choice.

* Norfolk radio already suffers a dearth of credibility, thanks to Alan Partridge's broadcasts for North Norfolk Digital. So it's doubly unfortunate that one of the county's non-fictional stations should have fallen prey to the "Downing Street Cat" hoax perpetrated by film-maker Chris Atkins. Atkins also duped at least one national newspaper (The Mail) into reporting that Larry the Downing Street cat was actually "Joe", rightful mog of "Margaret Sutcliffe" from south London, who was offering cat hairs from her sofa for use in a DNA identity test. The ruse coincided with the launch of churnalism.co.uk, a chilling new website designed to spot where lazy hacks like myself have copied uncorroborated information from press releases. Atkins, posing as Margaret's nephew, "Tim", was interviewed by the credulous Nick Conrad of BBC Radio Norfolk. "She loved that cat like it was a bit of her own body, like a foot," Tim/Atkins claimed. "She's been crying buckets and spades." Conrad, to his credit, affected mild scepticism. There but for the grace of God...

* Yesterday, I bemoaned the lack of a "porn version" of The King's Speech, shot at a location previously used for porn. David Pollard of Heckmondwike suggests a title: "Could I offer The King's Peach," he asks. "It hasn't the wit of Shaving Ryan's Privates, but it's the best I could do." Nice try, David, though if you consult Urban Dictionary, you'll see that it's anatomically dubious.