The early Christmas gift that cannot stop giving enlivens another sabbath morn, as the Mail on Sunday returns to the riotous aftermath of Rupert Murdoch’s divorce from Wendy Deng. The latest instalment from our favourite neo-Tudor court touches on a distressing schism between the monarch and his daughter Elizabeth, who not so long ago was deemed to be winning the War of the Murdoch Succession. Alas, no longer.
The MoS reports that Elizabeth’s husband Matthew Freud, the public relations tarantula at the centre of the Chipping Norton web, banned Rupert from his 50th birthday party last month. It should be mentioned that Matthew’s memory about this typically understated affair can be dodgy: when asked by a diarist if David Cameron had attended, he denied this for a day before the fog cleared and he recalled that the PM had been after all. Anyway, Matthew is adamant that he excised his father-in-law from the guest list – “a very public sign V-sign to Rupert” – and that no octogenarian gate-crashing ensued.
This fatwah is interpreted as a Freud counterstrike on behalf of his chum Mr Tony Blair, who was at the party, and whom Rupert had banned from a media conference in the summer in vengeance for the alleged Blairite closeness with Wendy that he regards as a betrayal of their friendship. “I will be eternally grateful to Rupert for producing Elizabeth…” declares Matthew in a poignant statement wholly devoid of faked piety. “Our views differ quite dramatically on a number of subjects professionally… But we both love his daughter and his grandchildren, if not always each other. I do not believe anything else is terribly important.” Indeed. Some may regard future control of News Corp as terribly important. But if Matthew has a weakness, it is his fierce, high minded contempt for the allure of money and power.
Talking bauxite? What better person than Tony Blair
As for the object of Rupert’s cuckoldry suspicions the Sunday Telegraph has further tidings about Mr Tony Blair’s altruistic work in Africa. It reveals that, in the last couple of years, not always by private jet, he has visited Guinea as many as seven times. A spokesman denies that these trips had any link with a $3bn mining deal, recently signed with an Abu Dhabi investment fund, to develop a bauxite and aluminium plant (Guinea has half the world’s reserves of bauxite, the main source of aluminium). This we accept, so it probably isn’t worth mentioning that Peter Mandelson was a frequent visitor to Guinea and its president Alpha Condé before Mr T, or that Mandy’s yachtgate pal Oleg Deripaska is the planet’s biggest aluminium dealer.
Here’s a gambling tip: don’t take advice from Ian Botham
Another all-night session of Ashes horror was leavened, a little, by the entertaining commercial for online bookie Unibet shown with such endearing regularity on Sky Sports. This features various folk advising on what might be a canny punt, with the last word rightly left to Ian Botham. “But at the end of the day,” rhymes Beefy, “I think the England bowlers will probably have the last say.” Yup. You cannot place a price on punditry of the kind.
Chuka’s dream: not to be compared to Michael Howard
The award for Most Laconically Destructive Political Put-Down of the Year goes to Jeremy Vine. Standing in for Andrew Marr on BBC1, Vine’s guests included the bashful Chuka Umunna, who pointed out that while one hears much about the American dream, “I actually think we have a British dream in this country, where people are hungry to achieve aspirations and ambitions.” “The last person to say that,” Vine replied, “was Michael Howard. He had a whole British dream thing.” “Well, look, at the end of the day,” said the shadow Business Secretary, coming over a bit Beefy Botham as he visibly deflated, “the British dream is every bit as strong as the American dream. We just don’t really talk about it.” That’s because there is no such thing. Now do pipe down before someone hacks your Wikipedia entry, removes that vexing “British Obama” comparison, and replaces it with “the Labour Michael Howard.”
The Dorries method: when all else fails, invoke Thatcher
As scrappy as ever in defending an unpopular line, Nadine Dorries argues that MPs such as her honourable self must take that contentious 11 per cent pay rise lest poverty deters potential titans of tomorrow from entering parliament. “Would a grocer’s daughter from Grantham find it possible to become an MP and leader of her party today?” she muses. “I would argue not.” And I would argue that, if that Lincolnshire lass had married a wealthy businessman and lived in a large house in Chelsea, she probably would. Nadine’s pluck in resisting the tide of public opinion only cements our affection, and to her we say this, even if she is a monolinguist in the tongue of arrant balls. Go Nad!
The big question: would you stop your bus for Liz Jones?
Writing only common sense, meanwhile, is Liz Jones, who unveils what looks rather like a freshly minted piece of racial coding in the Mail on Sunday. “I tried to get on a No 19 in Kensington the other day,” writes Liz, but when the bus didn’t stop for her, she chased it to the traffic lights and banged on the door. “Bearded driver: ‘Ay?’ Me: ‘You didn’t stop… You drove straight past. That is against the law of England.’ He not only didn’t speak English,” she goes on, “he shook his fist and drove off.” I guess that “bearded driver” might be a synonym for Amish, or hassidic Jew, but Unibet would quote 1-2500 on a Muslim.