Matthew Norman on Monday: Out with it Chris, are you really Arthur or Martha?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A day before the big vote, perplexity grips lovable cabinet chump Chris Grayling. A lively sabbath for the Injustice Secretary revealed that he doesn't know if he's Arthur or Martha on two penal fronts.

While The Independent on Sunday revealed he breached a prisoner's confidentiality order taken out by himself, The Mail on Sunday outlined his vision for British nicks. Among the meister plans conceived by the tough love supremo (he also confessed to smacking his children) to make stir "spartan" is not merely depriving inmates of such holiday-camp luxuries as soap.

He also means to prevent gay prisoners sharing cells, and even to send them to different jails. Forgetting that Spartan society was built on homoerotic relationships seems the least of his befuddlement.

In tomorrow's free vote, Chris will apparently follow David Cameron, who demoted him for backing the Christian guest-house owner's right to turn away gay couples, into the aye lobby.

On the one hand, this Damascene conversion reshapes him as a fan of gay marriage. On the other, he finds gay relationships so repellent that he would spend scarce resources on separating gay lovers, who may before long be wed.

The sooner Chris works out whether his priority is ingratiating himself with right-wing tabloids or with the PM, the less hapless a simpleton he may begin to appear.

Take a leaf out of Melanie's book

Less bamboozled by this issue is Melanie Phillips. Railing against the PM's fondness for role model Mr Tony Blair, she wrote this of the latter. "While remaining committed under the radar to extreme, indeed revolutionary left-wing positions – ... mass third-world immigration, multiculturalism, gay rights ..." Bless Mad Mel, she never lets us down.

The Mail remembers Leveson – eventually

Strange days indeed for the Daily Mail as it struggles with changing industry mores.

Last week, in pursuit of its commitment to celebrating the female ageing process, the paper ran a snap of Antonia de Sancha, David Mellor's erstwhile friend, looking 172 as she sat outside a café.

Waiting for that shot must have tested the snapper's patience, because in repose she looks great for 51. This fact was later conceded by columnist Jan Moir, who wrote sympathetically of her in Friday, while on Saturday Ms de Sancha appeared on the Mail's front page resembling herself, and not her great granny playing a deranged hag on the moor in a community centre production of Macbeth.

If he noticed this volte face, Lord Justice Leveson is retroactively excused the smug grin.

Be a sport, Hillary, and give them a chance

Given the opportunities for Mail-esque middle-aged woman-baiting if she runs for the presidency in 2016, many will advise Hillary Clinton to ditch the new specs and return to the contact lenses once her vision is restored to its pre-blood clot state.

On purely sporting grounds, I hope she keeps them. As things stand, her journey to the White House will be a procession. Running on the Olive From On The Buses Tribute Act platform might at least make a game of it.

Alec Shelbrooke, he don't spell good

With young Tory pretenders currently all the rage, a warm welcome to the Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke.

Portly Alec, 37, looks every inch the next Adam Afriyie as he strives to ensure that those on benefits receive them in the form of a card that stops them spending as they wish (booze, fags and gambling being, he assures us, all their hearts desire).

Whether Alec is equally keen on stigmatising the semi-literate by making them wear dunce caps is another matter.

On being appointed to a post far beneath his gifts in the reshuffle, he tweeted his delight "to have followed Mike Penning to Northern Island as PPS".

Stoopid party is, as Mother Gump so nearly put it, as stoopid party does.

Lembit Opik's Pointless comeback

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hal-eigh-loo-jahh, Lembit Opik has won something at last. Sort of.

After all the reverses in the fields of romance, electoral politics, reality TV, stand-up comedy and professional wrestling, Lembit triumphed, almost, in a "celebrity" edition of a BBC1 quiz show.

Partnered by girlfriend Merily McGivern, 22, Lembit, 47 next month, reached Saturday's final of the aptly named Pointless, failing to win the money for their charities when unable to cite a suitably obscure country bordering five others. Baby steps on the comeback trail for the love child of Bruce Forsyth and Novak Djokovic, yes. But it's a start, Lembit, undeniably.