Diary: Where would we be without Cabinet's David Brent?
Monday 30 May 2011
Do the annals of political wickedness contain a viler case of skulduggery than the guerrilla campaign to undermine Liam Fox? For the second time in a few months, the Defence Secretary is shocked – shocked, I tells ya, to the precipice of ague – by the leaking of a private letter to David Cameron.
Following September's missive about the threat posed by cuts to military morale, the latest epistle contrasted the decline in defence spending with the rise in the overseas development budget. He has a point. Given the choice between a dozen war planes and fighting malaria... but really that's no choice at all. So who is out to frame the adorable Dreyfus du jour?
On Andrew Marr's show yesterday, a livid Liam was as baffled as everyone else. These leaks were "unprofessional, unethical and cowardly", he straight-facedly declared, and he has no clue which Cabinet member to blame or what their motives might be. No wonder. Where on earth would you begin the search for someone hellbent on ingratiating Liam, would-be leader of the malcontented Tory right, with the right-wing Tory press?
We wish him luck investigating this "hugely regrettable matter". Apart from his charm and winsome frankness, Liam is the wittiest man in politics ("What do you call four dogs and a blackbird," he asked once at a Christmas party? "The Spice Girls!"). The thought of losing the Cabinet's David Brent to an unseen sniper is too excruciating to contemplate.
* What a week for The Times, which had not only Liam's letter but a masterly ranking of the best 25 sports movies ever made. Here we found The Hustler, that noir masterpiece of pool halls and despair, at number 13; and Escape to Victory, in which the 1980 Ipswich Town squad (how John Wark was overlooked for the Oscar I will never know) helps Sly Stallone escape from a prisoner of war camp, at number nine.
Next week in The Times, the top 50 midfield geniuses places Lionel Messi at number seven, and Carlton Cole sandwiched in the top five between Gareth Barry and Nicholas Soames.
* Mention of Messi brings us to ITV's splendidly unpartisan Champions League final coverage. With so much to admire, it seems cruel to pick a highlight. But hats off to commentator Clive Tyldesley for the uplifting observation, with Barcelona leading 3-1 late on, that at that point Man United had "been on level terms for half the game". Now there's a statistic you just don't hear often enough.
* Noble as it was for David Miliband to find time to attend Ed's nuptials on Saturday, he was nobler still not to find time to attend the Hampstead reception. David was booked to speak at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, and while a less considerate man might have shifted it, he would not dream of putting the organisers out at two months' notice.
David further regrets that he will have to miss Ed and Justine's 10th anniversary bash due to a prior engagement at the party to celebrate the 5,000th performance of Auf Wiedersehen Pet: The Musical at the Cheryl Cole Theatre in Hollywood.
* Speaking of whom, I tire of the backlash against the Fox network for firing her through fears that she would antagonise X-Factor voters, and that few viewers would make sense of a word she said. Meanwhile, that network continues to employ and support the presidential ambitions of Sarah Palin, who would waste no time in refudiating any hint of double standards.
* The privacy war battle between parliament and judiciary takes a turn with news that a judge ordered Alan Sugar, Twitter's very own Dorothy Parker, to remove a tweet. "Lord Taylor Tory peer in court overalleged expenses fiddle," wrote his platform-shoed lordship during the trial in January. "Wonderif he'll get off as he is a Tory compared to Labour MP who was sent to jail." This may have been both in contempt and cobblers (Taylor will be sentenced this week). But it does establish that Lord Sugar's tribal loyalty to the party he has always loved survives, and with it his status as the most absurdly underrated political intellect of the age.
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