Matthew Norman on Monday: Charging in, Black Night is unhorsed by three little letters


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The Independent Online

In honour of his latest brave foray into the treacherous arena of droll badinage, a new analogy for Alastair Campbell is needed. Where his refusal to vanish from public life has been likened to a stubbornly recurrent fungal infection, Ali's exchange of tweets with Armando Iannucci over the latter's OBE casts him as Monty Python's Black Knight – the one who insists on continuing to fight Arthur after losing all four limbs. For those who missed the Twitter spat, Ali, attacked Iannucci for joining "the Establishment he claims to deride", while Armando counterstruck: "It's probably more Establishment to order your army to march into countries for no reason."

It was at this point that anyone free from "unchecked overconfidence and a staunch refusal ever to give up", as the Black Knight's Wikipedia entry puts it, would have withdrawn. Back came Ali to accuse the Iannucci wit of being "tired and blunt already. Three little letters can have more impact than you realise. Tut tut." At which, our sharpest satirical blade lopped off the poor chump's head with a succinct "WMD", wandering off to leave the blood-gushing stump tweeting into a void. If some will see this inability to accept being hopelessly outmatched on the field of wit as a psychological flaw, we choose to celebrate his heroic intransigence with Général Bosquet's judgment on the Light Brigade. C'est magnifique, Ali, you doughty old scrapper, mais ce n'est pas la guerre.


Covert operations, red-top style


As for Ali's new diaries, the stand-out revelation so far concerns Rupert Murdoch warning Mr Tony Blair, on George W Bush's behalf, not to delay the anti-Establishment invasion of Iraq. Whether or not Lord Leveson will recall Murdoch over his on-oath evidence about never pressuring PMs, what intrigues me is the light this casts on another entry. Ali also relates how George W promised Mr T that he'd get rid of Iain Duncan Smith if he caused him grief. How a US President could remove a British Opposition leader has perplexed some people. But it seems obvious that a Murdoch operating as Bush's enforcer could have happily offered The Sun's services to destroy IDS at the quarter-witted President's request.


The honourable thing to do


Incidentally, I can find no record of Ali rebuking Alex Ferguson for joining the Establishment in 1999 after Man United won the treble. You'd have thought the man who on Saturday tweeted "Malcom Tucker and I do not approve of the honours system" must have savaged the one-time Marxist shipyard worker for becoming Sir Alex, right. Perhaps the reticence had something to do with Ali arranging the knighthood himself. Still early doors, mind, and if the Black Knight of Tufnell Park can reattach his typing arm, he might care to tweet his revulsion in time for next week's column.

Hard days, knight? It doesn't show


The happiest of 70th birthdays to another anti-Establishment knight, Paul McCartney. Sir Paul is expected to celebrate reaching his biblical span at Madame Tussauds, where he now lives thanks to a clerical error.

After a recent modelling session, paperwork confusion caused the real life version to be mounted on a plinth, while the animatronic waxwork seen at the Jubilee concert (the Ugly Sister pinched mouth; the insanely chestnut hair; a shocker even for Tussaud's) was released into the wild.


More gems from the Tory back benches


For once the search for an intellectual giant on the Tory back benches takes us past Nadine Dorries and Peter Bone. Today's genius is Andrew Rosindell, the Union Jack-clad MP for Romford, who has expressed his "huge admiration" for General Pinochet.

The brilliance needs no highlighting by reference to the torture and mass murder that ensued when the CIA replaced Chile's elected leader, Salvador Allende, with Pinochet in 1973. Those who worry that Andrew's political career hasn't matched his cerebral powers overlook his chairmanship of the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Flags & Heraldry.


Republican goes on the offensive


It isn't only our far right that produces unsung cerebral titans, of course. Mike Callton, a Republican congressman from Michigan, was outraged last week by Democrat Lisa Brown.

"What she said was so offensive," thundered Mr Callton, who is hereby twinned with Andrew Rosindell, as the Special Relationship demands, "I don't even want to say it in front of women."

Mr Callton was quite right. It wasn't so much the word "vagina" that offended. It was Brown's gratuitous use of it during a debate about abortion.