Richard Ingrams: Keep an eye on politicians who go from left to right

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The Independent Online

Is he a right-wing fanatic?

Or just an out-and-out nutter? Or possibly a combination of both? I ask the questions not of the Norwegian killer Anders Breivik but our own Education Secretary Michael Gove.

When details were released this week of all the meetings that have taken place between government ministers and Rupert Murdoch, the most surprising were those involving Mr Gove, who enjoyed far more dinner dates than any of his colleagues. It was even more surprising to be informed that Gove had discussed education policy with the man they call the Dirty Digger and had even suggested to him that he might like to sponsor one or two of the new independent academies that Cameron and Gove are so keen on.

Gove is known to be a bit of an intellectual, keen to restore the teaching of traditional subjects in state schools. Isn't it a bit peculiar that he should seek assistance from a man who has done more than anyone in our time to dumb down the cultural values that Gove is so keen to uphold?

It may look like the behaviour of a nutter. But don't let us forget the right-wing fanatic. Murdoch, we should never forget, is a man of extreme right-wing views. And so is Gove – a keen supporter of the Iraq war, an outspoken admirer of George Bush and Tony Blair. Gove and Murdoch have another thing in common. They were both youthful lefties who later in life swung violently to the right – always the most dangerous of political animals.

What the US doesn't know about Morgan

The phone-hacking scandal has claimed many victims but none perhaps so deserving as Piers Morgan, currently having to fend off questions about widespread hacking when he was editor of the Daily Mirror. After being sacked by the Mirror for printing faked photographs of British soldiers allegedly torturing Iraqis, Morgan reinvented himself as a TV personality, achieving some degree of success as a chat-show host in the US. As the recent scandal has shown, Americans are slow to concern themselves with the bad things that go on in this country. So not many of them will have been aware that Morgan as editor of the Daily Mirror was widely attacked for profiting from the increased value of shares which had been tipped in the City pages of his own paper.

Morgan always maintained that it was just a coincidence that he happened to buy shares in a little known company, Viglen, on the day before his paper tipped them. Perhaps luckily for him, he was never prosecuted, unlike his two reporters, one of whom was jailed. Morgan was not even called upon to give evidence at the trial.

If anyone lived a charmed life it seemed to be the slippery Morgan, who went on to achieve success with his published diaries, even though nit-picking critics queried their authenticity. Has luck now finally run out for the lovable, or perhaps not so lovable, rogue Morgan?

Baffled by the badger effect

Sir David Attenborough, as I mentioned only the other day, is concerned that our urban population has so little experience of wildlife. All they are likely to see in the course of their lives are pigeons and rats, he says.

He may well be right about this. But one thing is reasonably certain – namely that they will never see a badger. Even those of us who live in the country are unlikely ever to catch sight of a live specimen, though occasionally a corpse may be seen lying at the roadside. The reason is that they only come out at night.

So how come 61 per cent of the population are reported to be opposed to the culling of a creature that they have never seen – one which is known to be savage, smelly and the cause of TB in cattle? Why are the correspondence columns filled with letters day after day defending these obnoxious and virtually invisible animals?

It all points to the extraordinary hold that TV personalities like Sir David and Bill Oddie have over public opinion. There is not much any of us can do about it except to reflect that at least we are luckier than the French, who now find that thanks to the efforts of the wildlife brigade, their country is being overrun by ravenous wolves.