Diary: They should move 'Extra' Pickles to the MoD
Tuesday 04 January 2011
Communities Secretary Eric "Extra" Pickles has doubtless been described as Churchillian before now, for his considerable size if not his statesmanship. Yet even the great former Prime Minister would be impressed by the number of wars his Conservative descendant has declared, fought and/or finished. Yesterday, Extra called a ceasefire in what he described as "Whitehall's War on the Motorist". In December, he hailed the end of the non-existent "War on Christmas" (his words). He even produced a series of YouTube clips during the general election entitled "Eric Pickles' War Room briefings". Meanwhile, the media has accused Extra of "declaring war" on – among other things – town halls, "street clutter", "council non-jobs" and "bossy bollards". Two questions: should Extra be moved to the MoD (with all that military experience, he's clearly wasted at DCLG)? And could we declare war on the use of "war on ... "?
* Before decamping to the slopes for Christmas, I reported that the FA was far from fond of Labour's DCMS man, Ivan Lewis. In fact, I suggested, it considers him something of a Culture Secretary. "One of the best things about that Hunt," said my FA official of the Government's Jeremy Rhyming-Slang, "is that he's not Ivan Lewis". I'm happy to note today, however, that the surprise appointment of David Bernstein (at the expense of David Dein) as the new FA boss bodes well for Lewis. The pair have been friendly ever since Bernstein's stint as chairman at Manchester City, the club of which Lewis is a fervent supporter. "[Bernstein is] one of the few chairmen in football who when he left the fans were devastated," Lewis said of the news, though I expect the departure of current chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak would have a not dissimilar effect.
* An early contender for quote-maker of the year must be Times columnist David Aaronovitch, who raised a typically schoolmarmish chuckle from Sarah Montague while describing his shameful adoration for The Archers on the Today programme: "It's a mild congenital abnormality, liking The Archers," Aaronovitch confessed. "A bit like having a third nipple, but maybe slightly more harmful." Accurate as they are, I shan't be repeating Aaronovitch's words to my elderly Archers-loving grandmother.
* The honourable member for Rhondda, renowned self-portraitist Chris Bryant, is also developing something of a reputation as a poet. (In that he writes poetry; not that it's any good.) Until now, Bryant was best known for calling Sky News anchor Kay "Hurly" Burley "a bit dim"; for accusing George (né Gideon) Osborne of homophobia; and for taking a semi-nude photograph of himself, which he later posted on a dating website. In 2011, however, I well expect the Shadow Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform to win fame for his entertaining verse. (Entertainingly rubbish, that is.) Bryant's latest, published on the Labour Uncut blog, is "What Did You Expect?", a New Year ode about the weather; his "tribal", "venal" and "vain" colleagues; and the nice thank-you letter he received from his niece for her Christmas gift. I would reproduce the whole thing here, but fortunately I've run out of space.
Faulks's novel idea for the BBC
The writer's ego is a notoriously fragile thing, but you'd expect a leading novelist to enjoy seeing his name in lights. Not so Sebastian Faulks, formerly of this parish, whose new series for BBC2, Faulks on Fiction, is to be the highlight of the corporation's "Novel Season" this spring. The four-part documentary will recount the history of the British novel through its characters: heroes, villains, lovers and snobs.
The accompanying book of the same name, however, has caused its author some consternation. As he explains in its acknowledgments: "The title of this book is not my fault. A high-up person at the BBC decreed that the series should be so-called because this year's craze is for having the presenter's name in the title. My choice – and not just because it was my wife's idea – was for Novel People and I hope it may be possible to reprint the book at some future date under that preferable title." Who was this dastardly BBC executive? And might I suggest a compromise: Sebastian's Folks?
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