The Feral Beast: How to dress like a TV presenter, talk like Andrew Mitchell and play like a football manager

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The Independent Online

Jeremy Paxman has found expression through his beard. But what's with Gavin Esler and those jumpers? He hosted Newsnight on Friday wearing two pieces of avant-garde knitwear, in an apparent response to the Prime Minister's advice that we should all wear a woolly indoors. The first sported polar bears, the second was red, with a reindeer motif. All very jolly, but Esler insists they are not from his own wardrobe. "Newsnight fashion editor and zeitgeist-watching staff chose the jumper", he reassures me. "I assume they picked acrylic as a style statement but it's not really my area of expertise".

The new editor of Newsnight, Ian Katz, is keen to make a name for himself, and some say that a recent Twitter gaffe that propelled him into the headlines wasn't entirely accidental. But is humiliating the presenters with joke jumpers the way to get noticed? Happily, Esler is taking it in good humour. "I don't expect to see it again," he says, "but am bearing the loss with great fortitude".

Fed shed?

Andrew Mitchell's alleged use of the word "pleb" chimed with an unfortunate image he had as a red-faced snob. But nobody seems to have noticed that he subsequently used a much more street slang word, calling the police "feds". A transcript of his interview with police last October, released last week, shows he said: "I am one of your local MPs, you're my local fed." According to the Dictionary of Slang, a "fed" is a "1990s UK Black/teen" term for a police officer. Apparently, it derives from American TV, and is short for an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As the police seem to be losing their argument over plebgate, perhaps they should take offence at being called feds instead?

Sending a boy...

Matthew d'Ancona's book about the coalition, In It Together, drew positive reviews from everywhere except The Spectator. This is odd, given that he used to be the editor. Or is it? The scathing review – which said the book "has the air of Jennifer's Diary", a breathless society column – was penned by Peter Oborne.

As it happens, his term as Spectator political editor ended under d'Ancona. Now, the d'Ancona camp has fought back, though in a rather peculiar way. A message has been posted on the Spectator website from one Zac d'Ancona, the author's 12-year-old son. "The only reason you are attacking this book is because you are a jealous idiot who hates the author and will do anything you can to undermine him and make yourself look good!!!!!" it says. A touching defence, but is the political playground a safe place for children?

End to end stuff

Who says Harry Redknapp is a colourful figure? His autobiography would suggest so. A glance at the index of his new tome, Always Managing, reveals that under "Redknapp, Harry" are listed the following: "abuse directed towards; acquittal; corruption allegations levelled at; dragging court case of; health worries of; heart problems of; in minibus crash; Monaco bank account of; and money management; motivations of; in police cell; in police interview; police protection given to; police raid on house of; trial of..." and so on. It's a wonder he had any time for football.

National front

What will Sir Nicholas Hytner do when he finally leaves the National Theatre? The director announced in April that he is standing down from the Southbank, but not until March 2015, and has been giving farewell interviews ever since. One thing seems certain: he won't be going to the West End. "The truth is that three-quarter of those theatres are no bloody good," he tells The Stage.

"They are a hundred years old, and built for tiny, Victorian people with no hygiene expectations, no comfort expectations – and for a particular kind of play." Before he joined the National he managed to alienate most of his audience by saying they were "too white, too middle-aged and middle class", and that didn't do him any harm. But will the pox-ridden midgets of the West End be so forgiving?

Digester news

Two weeks ago I reported how an eco-row was brewing in Wiltshire over plans to build a controversial anaerobic digester. Residents of Aldbourne even put on a play in which the villainous landowner was bumped off with a batch of bad caviar. Now, Brian Kingham has suddenly withdrawn his planning application, prompting some to wonder if he feared a Midsomer-style follow-up.

One local had been suggesting The Wicker Man as the next village production. A more prosaic reason could be that an alternative plan had been proposed for the digester, which would have seen a daily convoy of lorries and tractors driving past the homes of novelist Mavis Cheek and one B Kingham. Mystery solved?

Life of Brian

Art critic Brian Sewell says his voice has let him down, preventing him from getting work for the BBC. Now, he has revealed how his handwriting once also betrayed him. In an article about a rare Invicta car for The Automobile magazine, Sewell recalls the first time he ever saw one.

"I encountered it in the summer of 1947 when I was 15, obsessively collecting car catalogues. Having cycled home after a school sports day, I was in the bath when the doorbell rang. The visitor, smartly dressed, asked for me, and to my mother's enquiry replied that he had brought the car. "You do realise," my mother responded (and I can hear the severity in her voice), "That he is only 15?" Thinking to trump her ace, the man then produced my letter asking for a catalogue with "That, Madam, is not the handwriting of a boy"." Sewell was hauled from the bath to apologise, but ended up enjoying a ride round the block.