Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Matthew Norman on Monday: Mum's the word! Balls and son feed the Labour rumour mill


Is anyone more adept at catching the zeitgest than Ed Balls? With the surge in househusbands all over the newspapers, the Mail on Sunday reports that Ballsy loves to cook lasagna ... and not just for Yvette and the kids, but for the backbench MPs the couple are apparently schmoozing with vigour. Sampling a blog by Sky News's Sophy Ridge, the MoS identifies these dinners as lukewarm plotting (gas mark three, but the heat could be turned up at any moment) to replace Mr Miliband with the ice-pixie herself.

The only evidence it offers to underscore the reflex suspicion that attends every Ballsian move is a comment from one of their offspring, who answered a lasagna-eater's suggestion that the child might grow up to lead the party with: "No, my mummy is going to get that job." Oh the adorable things the little ones say!

It can't be long before Mr Balls switches to feeding MPs with shepherd's pie, just to implant the subliminal message that their leader is a lamb to the slaughter, and that he and Yvette will make mashed potatoes of him.

The android to make Ed appear human

There is a slither of hope for Milibandroid the Younger. Patrick Stewart, a lifelong Labour fan and one-time Star Trek captain, offers his services as performance coach. It's a kindly thought, but Jean-Luc Picard seems the wrong USS Enterprise officer for the task. Lt-Cdr Data, whose battle to overcome the limitations of his positronic circuitry and become fully human was a touching staple of the series, is the android for the job.

Mad Mel unleashed from Cell Block H

If you missed Thursday's Question Time, I commend a trip to the BBC iPlayer, not least for the reaction shots of our own Mark Steel while he hung upon fellow guest Melanie Phillips's every word.

Ever more closely resembling the new warder on Cell Block H, Mad Mel was on such form that picking a highlight is invidious. The laurel goes to MM's declaration that well-meaning folk are being hoodwinked by "trillion-dollar campaigns" to subvert the anti-drugs message. A trillion bucks is more than half of UK GDP. No wonder we're in trouble.

Who better to cringe before the tabloids?

Regular readers of this column will not have been startled to learn that Mark Thompson will vacate the BBC director-generalship after the Olympics. We touched on this prospect last March. Thommo will be sorely missed, but the knee pads had become sorely threadbare from all the years of genuflecting to right-wing tabloids.

There is no space today for early betting on his replacement, despite Mailman Quentin Letts's formal application, but we will have a full show next week.

Spin doctor loses his kudos among the boys

Alastair Campbell's heroic quest to fill the empty post-Downing Street hours takes an embarrassing turn on Twitter, where he attempts to ingratiate himself with Joey Barton, the bright but legendarily troubled footballer. "Sorry about today," consoled Ali after QPR's FA Cup defeat to Chelsea.

"My best mate who died recently," (Philip Gould, presumably) "QPR fan. Still hope 4 your views on standing, and hope you read my blog on racism." Joey seems unwilling to engage. To think of the No 10 days when Ali was bosom buddies with Alex Ferguson.

Editor pays a price for dissing national treasure

Condolences to Rachel Johnson, recently "promoted upstairs" to become The Lady's "editor-in-chief", on another reverse. An appearance at an Cambridge Union debate on feminism ended sadly, although given the opposition this was no shock. She faced that silicone Cicero Katie Price, right, and (despite having Liz Jones on her side) was crushed. Rachel, whose sneery dismissal of Jordan as a pneumatic dummy did not impress, ignored the guiding rule of national life: never underestimate the Pricey.