Media Diary: Lembit-watchers had advance warning of Laws's downfall
Monday 31 May 2010
Poignant and depressing though David Laws' resignation on Saturday night certainly was, at least it was less a shock than it might have been. The pre-emptive warning came on Saturday afternoon when a former colleague waded into the debate with a contribution headlined: "Opik: No question of Laws resigning". Ah well – we Lembit-watchers thought on seeing this – that's that for the ascetic member for Yeovil. It was Lembit who insisted Charles Kennedy would survive until the moment he resigned; Lembit who then became Mark Oaten's campaign manager (quite an accolade given that he was the only Lib Dem MP to back him); and Lembit, the seer of seers, who then switched allegiance to Simon Hughes. The sadness is that had Lembit only clung on his Montgomeryshire seat on 6 May he'd have been in line to replace Danny Alexander as Scottish Secretary ... and might from there have replicated the Alexander book by swiftly ascending to Cheek Secretary to the Treasury. But now what for the asteroid paranoiac? Lembit, it seems, has been hired by a gambling syndicate to go through the cards in difficult handicaps. His job, as you may have guessed, will be to tip all but one of the field.
For the first instalment of derivative feature Half A Day In The Life, we turn to Stephen Fry. A week ago, my fellow darts-obsessive was Sky Sports's guest at Wembley Arena, making an impressive commentary-box debut alongside the great Sid Waddell before presenting Phil "The Taylor" Power with the Premier League trophy, and bashfully glorying in the freshly minted crowd chant, "Stephen Fry, My Lord, Stephen Fry" (to the tune of "Kumbaya"). Within 12 hours, Stephen was on Tuesday's Today, meanwhile, discussing his mixed feelings about Richard Wagner, about which he made a BBC4 documentary.
In fact, the two interests are less incompatible than they might seem. It was only after watching his friend Helmut Jookhiller lose the Bavarian Proto-Nazi Open final after his match dart bounced out off the metallic circle bit around the bull that Wagner came up with the name Ring Cycle.
And Big Cliff Lazarenko once took the part of Wotan at Glyndebourbe, of course, to some critical acclaim. Even so, Stephen's was the finest display of renaissance manhood since Leonardo designed the submarine, painted Mona Lisa and invented spaghetti carbonara all on the same Tuscan morning.
Dave and darts
Incidentally, darts has a still more glittering celeb fan opportunity. David Cameron is another lover of arrows. As viewers of C4's When Boris Met Dave will recall, it was watching rank outsider Keith Deller win the 1983 world title that instilled the underdog stoicism that later saw him come for nowhere to steal the Tory leadership from David Davis. If PDC darts chairman Barry Hearn isn't peppering No 10 with invitations to the World Championship final in the New Year, he'd be daft. And Mr Hearn is not daft.
Amis et amis
Mr Deller was also an inspiration for Martin Amis, who modeled anti-hero Keith Talent on the lairy Suffolk chucker. However, it's to Amis Père that Paul Johnson turns his attention in his new memoir serialised in the Daily Mail. Although he generally approved of Kingsley, Paul identifies him as "not a normal man", and on this he speaks with authority. Lovers of the sleb confessional will richly enjoy a book in which the ribald octogenarian, better than ever in his anecdotage, drops names as Bomber Harris dropped bombs on Dresden. I don't wish to spoil the fun, so this intro to one of so many hilarious reminiscences must suffice. "Comedian Frankie Howerd was sitting opposite me at a dinner given by newspaper owner Robert Maxwell ..." Perhaps next week we will dip into some recollections that didn't make the Mail cut ... the night at Tallulah Bankhead's, perhaps, when Paul reduced Scott Fitzgerald to helpless giggles by lecturing Flaubert on the inadequacy of his prose.
For Andrew Wakefield, all is not lost. There were concerns that Melanie Phillips, quiet for too long about the MMR-autism link she championed, would never return to the scene of that triumph. Yet within a day of Mr Wakefield being struck off, Mad Mel blogged a piece headlined "A travesty, and a tragedy", dismissing the General Medical Council hearing as a "risible kangaroo court" (well they did rather rush to judgment; the enquiry didn't begin until 2007). She hopes eventually to reveal "the full story of how this sinister travesty was accomplished". Holding of the breath is not, as GMC cardio-vascular guidelines suggest, recommended. But MM remains game as a kipper, and you have to love the crop-haired dumpling for that.
An educational detail causes a shift in the market on the new BBC political editor (even if Nick Robinson suggests he's going nowhere). News that Nick's deputy James Landale attended Eton at just the time Boris was meeting Dave sees him installed as 9-4 favourite, ahead of Jon Sopel and Cher on 8-1. Sid Waddell, Martha Kearney, Laura Kuenssberg and Metal Mickey are bracketed on 18-1, but Adam Boulton has drifted out to 33s on rumours he's been expelled from his anger management course after a scrap with fellow student James "Buster" Murdoch. William Hill offers this intriguing bet. You can have 20-1 about Mr Landale sharing the job with Matt Frei, the Beeb's star man in the US, who went to Westminster. As for Lembit Opik, he was seen in a Newcastle Ladbroke's on Friday lumping a monkey on the late Walter Kronkite.
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