Matthew Norman on Monday: Who's just the man to replace Jeremy Hunt? Why, it's John Whittingdale, of course!

The allegedly respected Thatcherite knows a thing or two about the media

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The Independent Online

With Jeremy Hunt's hold on his post loosening hourly, melancholy contemplation of his successor becomes a painful duty. So thanks to the Mail on Sunday's Brendan Carlin for this tip: "Tory insiders expect John Whittingdale, respected chairman of the Commons culture [media and sport] committee, to replace Mr Hunt if he is forced to quit."

Respected? Not 'arf! The Tory MP for Maldon, who last week absolved Mr Hunt with a certainty no longer shared by the PM, would make the perfect Media Secretary for the hour – as readers of Andrew Neil's Full Disclosure will agree. In this memoir, the Adonis recalls how, as Sunday Times editor in 1990, he was poised to back Michael Heseltine against Mrs Thatcher when John, her political secretary, intervened. Via a friend, he warned Andrew that unless he changed his mind, he would ask Rupert Murdoch to stop the madness.

It could well be that John, who cited Rupert as the media figure he admires most, shares his idol's belief that Andrew is a shocking liar. But if so he wants to rebut this allegation forthwith. It would be a catastrophe if the anecdote destroyed his chances of replacing Mr Hunt or even begged the question of his fitness to lead that select committee at this time in politico-media history.

Hunting for the crowd's wisdom

But what of Jeremy Hunt's most electrifying policy initiative? Early in 2010, while shadowing the department he runs with such silky assurance today, Jeremy announced a £1m prize to anyone who could develop software capable of harnessing "the wisdom of the crowd" – the theory that the opinion of the masses is more accurate than any individual's. We don't hear about that any more, probably because it's impossible to crystallise. I've spent almost 30 seconds trying to think of an easily understood example of the wisdom of a crowd, and all I can manage is an opinion poll finding that 59 per cent of the public feel that Jeremy should quit. Too complex ever to catch on.

If you go down to the woods...

One of last week's many highlights was a reprise for the Sunday Times piece in which Jeremy Clarkson magisterially scotched the rumour about the PM discussing BSkyB with James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks over kitchie sups.

"What Rebekah and Cameron talked about most of all – and I'm a trained journalist so I understand the need to get these things right – is sausage rolls," wrote the bison-headed jester. "We were planning a walk with our kids over Christmas, and thought it might be a good idea to build a fire in my woods and stop off for a picnic."

At last, the ring of absolute truth. In December 2010. Oxfordshire was under feet of snow, with daytime temperatures below freezing. If there's one thing guaranteed to appeal to parents in weather like that, as you need hardly be a trained journalist to appreciate, it's a picnic with kiddies in the woods.

PM Dave morphs into darts star Kev

When Mr Cameron joined Andrew Marr on his BBC1 sofa yesterday, I was concerned by the effect all this stress was having on his once boyish features. He seems to be morphing into darts star Kevin "The Artist" Painter, who comes from Billericay in case you couldn't tell.

The PM being a long-time arrows fan, I urge him again to attend a Premier League event. Forget the embarrassment that such extravaganzas feature on Mr Murdoch's Sky Sports. If he embraced The Artist and telly's finest working-class sport ... well, wouldn't you love to see inverted snob Nadine Dorries stick that in her pipe and smoke it?

Prescott comes out tops on Twitter

Hashtag of the Week week comes courtesy of a John Prescott gag on Twitter. "Genuinely worried with Cameron's ratings in freefall that Tories might oust him," tweeted John. "Let's launch campaign to save dave #tooposhtopush."

Don't gloat if Ken loses

With the London Mayoral poll three days away, it looks bleak for Ken Livingstone Inc. But try not to gloat. Remember Mitt Romney's aperçu, that "corporations are people too".