Andy McSmith's Diary: BBC’s mixed messages led me to Westeros and Essos


John Birt, the former Director-General of the BBC, expounded a theory of television journalism which his colleague Peter Jay called the “mission to explain”. Today, whoever was operating their news app seems to be on a mission to mystify, as users twice received a weird message, which included the information that there will be “No nudity in latest episode of Game of Thrones!!!” and that “Push sucks! Pull blows!” It was followed by another message, apologising for the previous two: a test message was posted in error.

But why does pull suck, and push blow? It took several phone calls before a helpful BBC spokesman explained: “It was just nonsense. Obviously, ‘push’ and ‘pull’ notifications are associated with what they were doing, but there is no rhyme or reason to it: they were just finding the right number of characters. I think it’s fair to say the developer is embarrassed and won’t be visiting Westeros or Essos any time soon.”

If the words Westeros or Essos do not mean anything to you, ask David Cameron to explain, because today he claimed to be a Game of Thrones fan. On the other hand, if you are in the practice of tuning into Game of Thrones hoping to see bare flesh, do not be put off: a source says there is actually some “partial” nudity in the next episode.

Brown: Salmond’s a winner

Gordon Brown was asked at a Guardian conference on Scottish independence today whether he would admit to a “sneaking admiration” for Alex Salmond, and replied, accurately enough: “He’s won an election, which is more than I did.”

The things the English do…

Supporters of Scotland’s Yes campaign are a varied bunch. They include the journalist Neal Ascherson, an 81-year-old Old Etonian, whose fine prose graced The Independent on Sunday in the 1990s, and Paolo Nutini, the 27-year-old singer from Paisley. Ascherson will be among the speakers at a meeting in the Commons this evening putting the left-wing case for independence.

Nutini’s argument, set out in an interview in Q magazine, is confusing in parts. He said: “A lot of Scottish people have a real underdog mentality about what their horizons can be – in music and art, in the trails we blaze in sustainable energy. We get painted as a caricature a lot. I think we deserve better, a bit more respect and recognition… It’s very Kafkaian, isn’t it, the oppressors banging down our doors, f***ing plastic bags... Christ, the amount of time I spend in f***ing airports with plastic f***ing bags!”

Is that England’s fault?

Ken can be interrupted now

Ken Clarke, the Minister without Portfolio, was one of the very few ministers who was in government right the way through the Thatcher and Major premierships. He was the only one in that select group to have held office in the previous Tory administration, under Edward Heath, and is the only one to go on to hold office under David Cameron.

But today, he went on the BBC’s World at One programme and said that David Cameron should have taken legal advice before opening his mouth to disown Andy Coulson, and that Jean-Claude Juncker is not such a bad sort, despite what is being said about him. A ministerial reshuffle is expected any time now. It rather looks as if the longest ministerial career in post-war Britain is drawing to a close.