Matthew Norman on Monday: What Cav needed was a little help from Paisley and Adams


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The Independent Online

Following Mark Cavendish's disappointment in the Olympic cycling road race, challengers are lined up for the crucial role of scapegoat. Who or what to blame for robbing Cav of his inevitable gold medal? Unsurprisingly, given that it can't possibly be put down to tactical error, the chief contender so far has been Johnny Foreigner. The problem, as Cav graciously pointed out, was the other teams' unwillingness to nurse him into a winning position. It was almost as if they were here to win, too, when etiquette demanded that they ride penny-farthings with stabilisers.

But was there an even guiltier party than these vile foreign ingrates? It seems so, from an article in Saturday's Times, well timed to pre-empt Cav's victory, in which "director of minimal gains" Matt Parker explained how the team seeks tiny advantages, right down to measuring the sweat in cyclists' shorts.

To this end, cycling supremo Dave Brailsford "asked Alastair Campbell how Tony Blair brought the sides together in Northern Ireland". So there it is. What ruined it for Cav was the absence from Team GB – in place of Bradley "Wiggo" Wiggins, David Millar and Chris Froome – of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams yelling "Papist whoremonger" and "Proddy dog" at one another, while Mr Tony jollied them along with a cheery: "Come on, guys. I feel the hand of history on our shoulders."

There isn't a second to lose. RAF transport to the velodrome, a Mr Martin McGuinness ...

Dogged Burley out of step again

Mixed tidings for the Opening Ceremony refusenik Aidan Burley. The Tory MP for Cannock Chase receives support for his "multicultural crap" critique from Rodney Atkinson, Rowan's europhobe brother, who was outraged by Danny Boyle's implication that the Industrial Revolution wasn't a total boon for those driven from village greens into dark, satanic mills.

That's the good news for Burley. The bad news is that a livid Stan Collymore threatens to challenge him at the next election. If so, local boy Collymore's commitment to honouring his birthplace (it was in Cannock that he was caught dogging) will give him an advantage over the New Zealand-born Burley, though this must be set against the beating up of Ulrika Jonsson in Paris.

Burley has a French embarrassment of his own, being best known until now for being party to an SS-themed bash at a ski-resort stag do. He isn't the only parliamentary member of the Nazi Uniform Club, however (though in Ed Balls's defence, he was an undergrad member of Oxford's Tory Association back in 1986).

The mystery, given Ed's deliciously subtle sense of humour and apparent political leanings, is how he failed to join the Bullingdon Club. A few days ago, you'd have assumed that Nottingham High was too common a private school. But Saturday's Daily Mail carried a Buller snapshot featuring not only Old Etonians and George Osborne, but a chap from Manchester Grammar. Oikissimus! God knows how Paul Higgins slipped past the committee, but after this astoundingly egalitarian revelation, Ballsy has every right to feel cheated.

The harder you fall, Jimmy

Questionnaire fans adore the "your most glaring fault?" question, which so often elicits a variant of what is known officially as "the Esther Rantzen": if anything, I suppose I care too much. But you've never seen a finer reply than that given to our Saturday magazine by the reggae singer Jimmy Cliff. If he could change one thing about himself, he told Holly Williams, "I would try to control my generosity". Genius.


Sun sets on Sentamu

Heartbreak for those who look for spiritual uplift to John Sentamu in the Sun on Sunday. In another sparkling Sunday Service led by an item headlined "Faith's worth more than a gold medal" (yeah, Your Grace, tell that to poor Cav), the Archbishop of York, pictured left, announces that he will be "taking a break from writing as I am away on a retreat ..." I am asked, by myself, to make it clear that this not a tactical retreat designed to distance himself from the Sun, in the hope of resurrecting his dwindling hopes of winning the marathon to Canterbury.


Compliment? I've hit the jackpot!

The bookmakers' attempt to scrap the limit on the number of gaming machines in their shops teases an error from both the Mail and The Sun. Both source the description of these devices as "the crack cocaine of gambling" to an unnamed "expert". As the "expert" in question, I'm flattered. However, the editors of these titles must agree that, in terms of insanely misplaced compliments, this is up there on the podium with "Doesn't Paul McCartney still sing beautifully".