Matthew Norman on Monday: A right royal send-off for the Duke of Edinburgh – Timmy Mallett, a bouncy castle and Jedward
Thank heaven he was spared for the 91st birthday, but this rude reminder of mortality raises obvious questions about BBC plans for the Duke of Edinburgh's passing. For those distressed by coverage of the event that apparently caused the ducal bladder to become infected, I am pleased to report that a leaked internal memo hints strongly at a reversion to the gravitas of yore.
To this end, so it reveals, Timmy Mallett is slated for lead presenter, and "will anchor funeral coverage from a bouncy castle opposite the main entrance to Westminster Abbey, in an almost entirely black (though primary colours may be used, sedately, for the pineapples) Hawaiian shirt".
Vernon Kay will be inside the Abbey "giving a running commentary on the service and will humourously tailor references to All Star Family Fortunes to the Royal Family, where indicated, to lighten an inevitably sombre mood". Andrew Neil will host "a respectful though upbeat riverboat wake", with guests including Joan Collins, Dappy from N-Dubz, Huffty, Joey Barton, Su Pollard, Roger de Courcey, and Nookie Bear, while expert insight into the Duke's Greek heritage "will, in the presumed absence of ex-King Constantine, be supplied by Harry Enfield's Stavros".
In the most significant concession to outrage, commentary on the progress of the catafalque will come from the Beeb's most trusted fraternal broadcasters, who were scandalously overlooked for the Jubilee. Should the Chuckle Brothers be unavailable, however, Jedward are on standby.
Gyles finds a new role
No sooner had that splendid old boy left hospital, meanwhile, than Prince Philip was subjected to another invasive medical procedure. Gyles Brandreth, such a worthy successor to Norman St John-Stevas in the ceremonial role of Brown Stick In Waiting, wrote an open letter to his hero. "We missed you. We really did," he cooed in the Sunday Telegraph. "And if you don't believe me... I have proof. On Monday night, at the end of the concert, the Prince of Wales gave a speech that was warm and witty and perfectly judged (Where does he get it from?)..." And so on.
Gyles couldn't have been more thorough, though the rules of medical confidentiality preclude us from knowing whether he found any polyps up there.
My money's on the lady
The best of British to the five contenders for the BBC Director-Generalship as they prepare to be interviewed by Chris Patten. My money's on chief operating officer Caroline Thompson, also known as Lady Liddle.
Her husband Roger Liddle – co-author with Peter Mandelson of the 1996 blue-skies dreaming page-turner The Blair Revolution – was ennobled for long service as a Blairite ultra, despite being caught up in the "Lobbygate" cash-for-access scandal.
In the unlikely event that neither Caroline nor the other four prove to be to Lord Patten's liking, Fiona Millar is being hotly tipped to be parachuted in as a last minute compromise candidate.
The mystery of Ed Balls
I am startled by a claim, in The Mail on Sunday, that Ed Balls has spent thousands of pounds on a survey designed in part to unravel the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma of why people don't like him. This seems an untimely extravagance. Any of us could have told him the answer to that one, in no more than three monosyllabic words, gratis and for the pleasure alone.
Also in the MoS, shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander addresses Euro 2012 racism. Gordon Brown's old glove puppet carves a few lines from the metronomic pieties to express his hope, as a fervent Scotland fan, that "England can do the whole of Britain proud". Wee Dougie's no fool. He hasn't forgotten how Gordon's attempt to ingratiate himself with the English, by citing Gazza's virtuoso goal against Scotland in Euro 1996 as his favourite football memory, did wonders for him.
* Hats off to the Mirror Group staff for coping heroically with all the mayhem. Chief executive Sly Bailey has gone, taking the Daily and Sunday Mirror editors down with her like a peroxide Samson, but you'd never guess the chaos from the professionalism of the third MGN title – "Queen begins four-day Diamond Jubilee at the Derby," read yesterday's lead story on The People's website. Next Sunday, The People ("Best for national and international news") is scheduled to splash with "Sad Ed VIII abandons throne for 'Woman I Love'."
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