Diary: What's a peacemaking holidaymaker to do?
Matthew Norman on Monday
Monday 14 February 2011
What a joy to wake yesterday to the dulcets of Mr Tony Blair, who went on Andrew Marr's BBC1 show on a rare visit to the land of his birth to chat about Egypt. If a little drawn from the relentless grind of sprinkling peace over the Middle East, Mr Tony nonetheless seemed enviably relaxed, and no wonder. Andrew is an interviewer on whom he can always rely not to ask impertinent questions ... such as what on earth will the ex-PM do now for freebie holidays?
Although he seems to have downgraded his adoration for Hosni Mubarak, whom a fortnight ago he lauded as "immensely courageous" and "a force for good", the two were once so close that the dictator put at the Blairs' disposal the Sharm El Sheik residence to which he fled on Friday.
Although graciously accepting that dictator's hospitality did Mr Tony only credit, he can hardly go there again. Nor will he and Cherie be spending any languid weeks aboard Silvio Berlusconi's yacht, at least while the Italian Stallion – and whoever guessed he might be a bit of a rotter? – faces trial for underage sex. Not even Harold Wilson showed such exquisite judgment in choosing his friends. That he should be punished for that by having to pay for his own hols is nothing less than an obscenity.
* There is a ray of hope, however, so long as he is willing to downgrade to the B&B in Battle owned by Stan Rosenthal. One of the last surviving Blairite champions, it was Stan who complained to the BBC about Jeremy Paxman's reference to the Iraq war being justified with "lies"; and Stan who took a full-page New Statesman ad demanding a fair hearing for him from the Chilcot inquiry. There are so few of us true believers left that you'll excuse the plug for a compadre. Stan's B&B (grade 2 listed) boasts a suite in the annex above the art gallery. Battle, meanwhile, has no plans whatever to twin itself with The Hague.
More depressing is the championing of the English Defence League by Richard Desmond's Daily Star. What saddens here that in permitting this elegance, Richard formally relinquishes any hope of an overdue honour. All that questing for respectability – the charidee work for Jewish Care, selling his juicier mags, buying Channel 5 – and no longer the sniff of so much as a piddling CBE. The earthly price for integrity can be prohibitive, as other noble souls have learned, and its reward delayed until the next life.
* Anyone offended by the taunting of disabled Tory MP Paul Maynard by Labour members should read Michael White's splendid blog on the Guardian website. Much like Armchair Field Marshall the Lord Aaronovitch, Mike is absolutely the last hack to take a tone of dismissive, I'm-the-only-adult-in-town superiority. So when this voice of common sense dismisses outrage at the mocking of cerebral palsy as "too pious" ... I think we'll all feel pretty chastened by that.
* So will the News of the World, which yesterday ran a leader about discrimination in the Commons that might have appeared verbatim in this paper. "We measure our worth by the dignity with which we treat others," concludes this sinner that repenteth. "Not by cheap and vile sniggers at their expense." All right, we know Rupert is desperate to rebrand in the cause of snaffling that 100 per cent stake in BSkyB, but no need to lay it on quite so thick. Too pious by three quarters.
* I am depressed to read of my old schoolmate Matthew Freud's involvement in another party spat. Within a year of smearing chocolate cake over Hugh Grant's shirt, Matthew threw a martini over London Evening Standard editor Geordie Greig at a pre-Bafta bash, in umbrage at reporting of the proposed sale of wife Elisabeth Murdoch's production company Shine to her father's News Corp. Thankfully, there is a berth available in brother-in-law James Murdoch's Wapping anger-management support group. It's done wonders for James and Rebekah Brooks, and Matthew should claim that place forthwith.
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