Matthew Norman on Monday: Steptoe and Rab C Nesbitt make Cabinet reshuffle shortlist


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The Independent Online

Greater love hath no man than this, as Jeremy Thorpe so nearly put it of Harold Macmillan: that he lay down his classmates for his life. The pressure on David Cameron to take the long knives to a few toffs becomes irresistible, and the time to ignite reshuffle fever is upon us.

It barely needs stating that Francis Maude's career as top-ranked Cabinet firefighter (he's no Red Adair!) will be canned; and that David Davis will be summoned from the wilderness to lend a gloss of school-of-hard-knocks, self-made-mannishness to the team.

The Mail on Sunday offers a guide to the mood on the Tory right. Apart from a story headlined "Maude 'must go' over mother's petrol horror", it also reported that he is selling his South Downs home on the implied snobby grounds that Katie Price has a tone-lowering house nearby.

Elsewhere, meanwhile, it gave Mr Davis space to analyse the Tory image problem with a piece far too cryptic to be briefly condensed here, though "How much longer do you want me on the outside pissing in, eh, Fauntleroy?" might do for a précis. While the singly parented council house boy's return seems a gimme, top Downing Street sources insist that others in line for Cabinet posts include Albert Steptoe, Adele, Rab C Nesbitt, Arthur Mullard, Hylda Baker, Rodney Trotter, Ena Sharples, Nadine Dorries and Alfred P Doolittle.


Is Robinson's man the strongest link?

Another character from the Tories' provisional oik wing being touted for promotion is the Culture minister Ed Vaizey (St Paul's). "He's bright, funny and charming," insists his etiquette coach Anne Robinson, whose 12-year tenure on The Weakest Link sadly concluded on Saturday, "and a quick study. He came to stay on holiday once, and I warned him I'd throw him out unless he learned to say 'Please pass the butter', instead of leaning across five people to grab it. His table manners swiftly improved." If he's ready for kitchen supper, as that old Magic Circle saw goes, he's ready for Cabinet.


Select Beeb chief by PD James grilling

A proposal for the BBC Trust in its quest for a new director general. Recalling how brilliantly PD James skewered Mark Thompson 16 months ago, the advice is this: choose the five least laughable contenders, have Phyllis interview each at 8.10am on Today for a week, and make whoever emerges the least wounded your new DG. Apart from saving about £500,000 in headhunting fees, this might even find somebody with the gumption for the job.


No Rupert-funded nanny for Brooks

I am concerned by the domestic arrangements of the Cotswolds Family Brooks. When she and Charlie were recently whisked off to assist brave police with their enquires, Rebekah had to place their baby in the emergency care of Frances Clarkson, estranged missus of Jeremy. God alone knows why Rupert Murdoch, who funds Rebekah's London office and car, won't extend the largesse to a nanny. But these dawn raids have a nasty habit of recurring, and we urge the Brookses to plan accordingly.


Clegg's VIP lounge war with Argies

That Nick Clegg, he's so hard it's unbelievable. A so-called rival diarist reports that the deputy PM refused to share a VIP lounge at Seoul airport with Argentinian diplomats last week. The tale does Nick, who was returning from a nuclear summit, great credit. If declining to stand in the same room as those being so beastly over the Falklands isn't a fine example of the diplomatic flexibility needed to tackle nuclear proliferation, what is? To underline how rapidly he is maturing, Cleggy is scheduled to attend a Gregg's in Sheffield on Wednesday, when he will pose for the cameras chucking an unnibbled Fray Bentos pasty (ambient temperature) into a bin.


Mad Mel's April Fool

Amid this year's bumper crop of ribcage-busting spaghetti trees, the stand-out April Fool slipped by unnoticed. That empress of hilarity Melanie Phillips supported her blogged contention that Barack Obama is actively seeking to "sabotage Israel's defence against the threat of genocide" with this gem. "America's former ambassador to the UN John Bolton certainly thinks so – and he is not a man given to rash speculation." Oh he's not, Mad Mel, indeed he is not. The queenily moustachioed Bolton is the sworn enemy of deranged scaremongering, as he confirmed a few weeks ago by expressing his fear that the Castro brothers of Cuba mean to engage in biological warfare.