Matthew Norman on Monday: What Jeremy Hunt – the Cabinet's Manuel – did next

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Who could have known? Who would possibly have guessed that in Jeremy *unt's promotion to Health Secretary lay seeds that would soon flower into problems for the PM? He was such a safe pair of hands with the media portfolio, yet a few weeks into the new job he embarrasses his boss with an outburst to have a chap hiding behind a tree in shame.

What possessed Jeremy publicly to support a 12-week abortion limit (unless of course he is planning a chain of back-street clinics) is anyone's guess. Although the idiocy has a notable upside (it delighted Nadine Dorries, which is nice), he now assumes the informal government role known to political pros as "Cabinet Manuel", in honour of Basil Fawlty banging the waiter's head against a wall after another calamity, and despairingly asking: "What. You. Do. Next?" According to a leaked memo, the answer is this. At a fringe meeting tomorrow, Jeremy will proselytise the Victorian distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor.

On Saturday, at a Surrey car boot sale, he means to be overheard regretting his public school education on the grounds that "Let's face it, Charterhouse is all well and good, but it's hardly Eton, is it?" For his coup de grâce on Thursday week, meanwhile, he is scheduled to use an official visit to Stoke Mandeville to demand that the pediatric care centre be renamed The Jimmy Savile Memorial Ward.

Esther, the cabbie and Jimmy Savile

Now then, now then, the last thing Esther Rantzen would ever do is wilfully use a horrid scandal story to return to the public eye – but if that's an unavoidable by-product of her media blitz on the Savile affair, this she will stoically bear.

In her latest article, titled "How I Long To Turn The Clock Back", Esther begins by recalling how last week, en route to an NSPCC conference, a taxi driver called her over, and said this. "Jimmy Savile was in my cab some years back with two very young girls he said were his nieces [the cabbie apparently told her]. But they weren't. What he got up to in the back of the cab was bad. I knew it was wrong. But what could I say?"

Such uncanny timing. There she was, off to help the kiddies, when assailed by someone whose failure to report a serious crime perfectly justifies her own self-confessed negligence; after all, if he who saw felt unable to act, what could she do on nothing more than rumour? If ever an anecdote had a deafening ring of literal truth, it's the tale of the cab that hailed Esther Rantzen.

Will Obama fare better at sea level?

Of all the theories about why Obama bombed in Denver, Al Gore takes the gold by blaming high altitude. "When you go to 5,000 feet," posits Obama's fellow Nobel Laureate, "and you only have a few hours to adjust. I don't know… Maybe." And maybe not. Perhaps the next one, at sea level in New York state, will clarify.

Cameron under siege but chillaxed

Tremendous to find the PM chillaxed about the enemy within and without. Of the internal menace, he says: "Good. Great. Boris really is Boris. So I have to be, and I am, relatively, as you can see, relaxed about having the blond-haired mop sounding off from time to time."

There's a sentence structure, with the tortured parentheses, bespeaking unconcern. As for Big Ed Miliband's sampling of Disraeli, Mr Cameron offers this: "It's one nation, but it sounds more like East Germany than Great Britain." Absolutely brilliant. The cleverest GDR comparison since Richard Littlejohn likened dawn raids on his old Sun mates to the Stasi.

Grant's gift for his old foe The Daily Mail

I trust the Daily Mail will waste no time explaining why Hugh Grant's uncouth conference bar spat has destroyed his reticent, mannerly English toff persona. When a chap's been gobbled for cash in an LA car park, how much harm can a little cussing inflict? It's a question the Mail's ever cleaner-mouthed editor, with whom Grant, below, takes issue on journalistic ethics, must answer forthwith.

Earthly limits of headline writing

The Observer takes Headline of the Week with: "Sky's the limit as Nasa given pair of giant spy telescopes to search for other worlds." It's not, though, is it? If the sky really was the limit, what would they want with two Hubble-sized telescopes?