Divorce for Freud and Murdoch, a brush with death for Clarkson – what kind of curse has befallen the Chipping Norton set?


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Do you believe in coincidence? I wouldn’t ordinarily begin with a metaphysical inquiry, but after an utterly calamitous weekend for the Chipping Norton Set there seems no escaping it.

We will come to the second and savagely synchronous blow to CNS pride below, but first to the near-death experience in South America about which Jeremy Clarkson writes in the Sunday Times. Jeremy fervently denies that the numberplate H982 FKL on a Porsche his Top Gear crew took with them to Argentina played any part in inciting a rampaging mob to put him in fear for his life. For one thing, he insists that the plate was removed before the trouble began (though since the vehicle arrived in Argentina with numberplate affixed, word may have spread).

For another, he holds the official line that any connection between H982 FKL and the 1982 Falklands conflict was wholly unintended. Not that he admits there was any such perceptible link at all, because only by transposing the K with the L, he argues, “could it have been seen as a reference to the war”.

This rather makes you wonder why they bothered to remove the numberplate, what with the human mind being incapable of transposing two letters on its own. But it would be harsh to dismiss Jeremy as a bit of a Cnut for striving to reverse the tide of logic.

As for the question posed above, we find a marked difference of opinion between two geniuses. Where Jeremy passionately believes in outlandish coincidence, Albert Einstein did not. If Einstein was right when he said that “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous”, this raises two more intriguing questions. Why did the Creator choose to put Jeremy in harm’s way? And why, having taken the trouble do so by creating that pesky numberplate, did He then decide to spare him?



With friends like Tony, you’d better watch out...

Barely had news of the latest Clarkson fiasco broken than we learned of a yet worse Chipping Norton Set catastrophe from the Mail on Sunday. Elisabeth Murdoch and public relations goliath Matthew Freud, “whose 22 bedroom Oxfordshire country home was once seen as the unofficial social headquarters of the Chipping Norton set,” are to divorce. The cause of the split is absolutely none of our beeswax, but the paper lingers on Matthew’s falling-out with Elisabeth’s dad.

Matthew sided with Tony Blair after Rupert abruptly terminated his own marriage to Wendy Deng as a result of suspicions that she was up to no good with the Middle East peace-bringer, whose bottom she so admired. The MoS identifies the first public sign of trouble as their failure to appear at Cherie’s 60th birthday bash in July, when their seats at the top table were left vacant.

Rather than belabour my tired old shtick about the inevitably damaging effects of being befriended by Mr Tony (Gadaffi, Mubarak, Berlusconi, Rupert, Rebekah, Cliff, now the Freuds), I simply ask this. Coincidence? Or curse?


Can we ask a focus group if Prezza remembers 1997?

A trio of Labour peers don the ermine-lined Doc Martin’s to give Ed Miliband a kicking. Passing swiftly over the distaste for the mansion tax held by the noble Lords Noon (fortune from Indian cuisine) and Levy (Alvin Stardust), we come to our most ferocious campaigner against phone-hacking.

Writing again in the Sunday Mirror, whose parent company confessed to phone hacking some 10 days ago, John Prescott addresses his leader’s failings. “Ed might not like looking back but he can learn a lot from our 1997 campaign,” observes this peer of peerless integrity. “So come on Ed. Ditch the pollsters, the focus groups and US-style politics.”

How exceedingly true. If there’s one thing we associate with New Labour’s rise to power, it is the twin phobias about 1) focus groups (hence the late Philip Gould’s lack of any involvement); and 2) lifting ideas such as triangulation wholesale from Bill Clinton.


Grayling must have ‘The History Boys’ by his bedside

Injustice Secretary Chris Grayling seems such a civilised chap – what with denying prisoners books and now his masterplan to ignore the European Convention on Human Rights – that you might have guessed his philosophical guide is Alan Bennett.

Chris’ massively persuasive argument, that the only way to protect human rights is to curtail access to them, seems clearly modelled on the start of The History Boys, when Irwin is heard addressing MPs. “The effect of the bill will be to a significant extent to … demolish the presumption of innocence. Our strategy should therefore be to insist that the bill does not diminish the liberty of the subject but amplifies it…” The pedant could point out that Bennett wrote Irwin to satirise laughably meretricious sophistry of the Niall Ferguson school. But Chris is trying his best, and can’t be expected to understand everything.


A duet between IDS and his inspiration, Eminem

Iain Duncan Smith is on cracking form when interviewed in the Sunday Telegraph. Apart from contriving to verbise a noun (he posits that other European countries are as concerned as he is about being “influxed” by immigrants), IDS declares a fondness for the music of Eminem, whose work he thinks is “pretty good”. Whether IDS was thinking specifically of the rapper’s infamously trenchant lyrics about homosexuality, or possibly the song “Kill You” – “Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore / Till the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?” – is not stated. But by an eerie coincidence, Eminem is known to be a huge fan of IDS, and is believed to have asked him to guest on his next single, Quiet Man Ain’t No M*****F*****, in the fashion pioneered by Dodo on his magnificent 1999  single “Stan”.