Andy McSmith's Diary: Princely profile fails to fill perception gap

Our man in Westminster

The profile of Prince Charles in Time magazine, based on conversations with 50 of his friends and associates, has had an impact, particularly because of the comment that he is anxious to achieve certain ambitions before “the prison shades” close.

The implication that the prince equates being king with being in jail was sensational, if understandable, and it decorated a few headlines, though it was rapidly denied by Clarence House. The author of the Time profile, Catherine Mayer, went on the Today programme to emphasise that the original piece does not attribute either the words or the sentiment to the Prince himself.

“One of the reasons I wanted to profile the prince is that I thought there was an extraordinary gap between who he was and what he did and how he was portrayed,” she added. “So, to see some of what I hoped was sort of balanced and carefully calibrated somewhat sexed up doesn't surprise me at all.”

The confusion was not helped by the journalist and former Lib Dem aide Daisy McAndrew, doing a paper review on BBC television on Thursday night, who declared that the piece was especially authoritative because it was written by the wife of the former UK Ambassador in Washington, Sir Anthony Meyer. Not so, Daisy. Look carefully at their surnames.

The one to watch in Greenwich

An email has gone to members of the Greenwich Labour Party, in south London, telling them that Polly Toynbee, queen of The Guardian commentariat, is heading their way to advise them to select Matt Pennycook, a promising young intellectual from the much respected Resolution Foundation, as their next Labour MP. And whoever is selected will be an MP because Greenwich is safely Labour. There are other contestants, including David Prescott, son of, and Kathy Peach, from Scope, but the word is that this is a two horse race.

Matt Pennycook, one of the horses, has picked up formidable support. He has the main unions, including Unite, GMB and Aslef, behind him, along with the MPs Jon Cruddas and Lisa Nandy, and leading members of the local party. He has done well in the face of a common problem that Labour's selection procedure often favours local candidates with limited political horizons, when the party needs its contingent of university educated high fliers.

But in Greenwich, as it happens, the local candidate is exceptional. Len Duvall, who hails from a Woolwich council estate, entered politics via the 1970s Anti Nazi League, having had to cope with racist taunts because he is part Indian. He took a very hard line on the 2011 rioters, and paid the price when someone told the police that his son was out looting. This was untrue, but generated a lot of damaging publicity. In his long local government career, he has been hard on sleaze, which has left him with enduring enemies. If it were my choice, I would forego Ms Toynbee's kind advice and back the guy with battle scars.

What a Twit-ter

In these days of electronic surveillance, you just never know who is listening. Poor Michael V. Hayden, former boss of the USA's international snooping specialists, the National Security Agency, was on a train chatting privately to three journalists, unaware that a few seats away sat Tom Matzzie, former political director of the 'democracy in action' website, MoveOn.org.

Mr Matzzie used Twitter to give the conversation live coverage. “I wasn't saying anything sensitive or classified. I can't believe you guys are making such a big deal out of this,” Mr Hayden pleaded later, according to the New York Times.

No comment

After eight years of relentless blogging, tweeting and opinionating, the editor of the Liberal Conspiracy website, Sunny Hundal, has announced that its days as a daily-updated news and opinion blog have come to an end. He explained why - “Frankly, there is just too much opinion out there.” No comment.

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