Any etiquette sticklers tempted to criticise The Sun on Sunday for revealing David Beckham’s imminent knighthood should hold their fire. In fact, this thrilling news was first broken in November 1996, when in “Wannabe” those Spice Girls of Dr Fox’s rib-shatterer referred to Victoria not as a dog, but as “Easy V ... she’s a real lady”. She soon will be, it seems, and the lyrical prescience astounds.
Can’t a friend also be a work colleague?
Little in this life can be more depressing than watching one’s hopes of a Cabinet recall dribbling away, so hats off to Dr Liam Fox for keeping himself so busy. The charming one-time Defence Secretary has always been more versatile than the average neocon nostalgist. You may recall his foray into stand-up comedy, when he asked fellow party guests if they knew the collective noun for four dogs and a blackbird (“the Spice Girls”).
These days, it is on graver matters that the erstwhile Bernard Manning tribute act concentrates, to which end he has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute The Guardian over Glenn Greenwald’s reporting of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s blanket surveillance.
Dwelling in The Sunday Telegraph on the proper limitations of a free press, Dr Fox homes in on the role played in transporting information by Greenwald’s Brazilian lover David Miranda, who was intercepted and interrogated at Heathrow earlier this year. He is not persuaded by the argument that the latter was effectively working as a journalist (in which case he was entitled to a bespoke version of Miranda rights).
One understands the scepticism and bitterness from one who lost his job over a close, if purely Platonic, relationship with another man. In Fox’s Ministry of Defence glory days, Adam Werritty flew around the world to meet him in exotic destinations, with no other desire but to prove himself the bestest friend a man ever had. From this perspective, you can see why Dr Fox might struggle to compute that one buddy might be another’s work colleague despite, like Werritty, having no official position.
On the other hand, whatever diverts his attention from a return to the stand-up circuit cannot be a terrible thing.
Boris and Osborne beware ... Theresa May cracks a joke
It could be that Liam, like every bad General, is fighting the last war – in this case, his own in 2005 against his Tory leadership rival David Davis. Parliament’s leading defender of civil liberties, Davis is no fan of prosecuting newspapers for exposing outrageous government interference.
But enough of ancient history, and on to the coming Tory leadership scrap. A few weeks after Boris Johnson and George Osborne fought the Battle of Shanghai to prostrate themselves lower than the other before the Chinese, we find Theresa May wickedly teasing Boris on becoming The Spectator’s Politician of the Year. Although eschewing the Foxian preference for the sexist and racist, her acceptance speech had them close to ceding bladder control. This triumph provokes Adam Boulton in The Sunday Times to consider her fast narrowing odds of succeeding David Cameron, and with good cause. When Mrs May resigns her long-running captaincy of Earth squad in the annual Interplanetary Dourness Cup, and adds a dash of wit to her armoury, it is time for Boris and George to be very afraid.
Why did Blair throw his GQ award in the skip?
One cannot overstate the emotional value of a Politician of the Year award to the recipient, as Damian McBride reminds us in his memoir, Power Trip. When Damian joined his master, Gordon Brown, in moving to No 10 in 2007, he had “a good root around” the detritus the Family Blair left behind piled in a skip. “My prize find was Tony Blair’s GQ Politician of the Year Award from 2003, a lovely piece of slate and glass which now sits on my mantelpiece at home.”
What possessed Mr T to disdain this recognition of his recent efforts in Iraq (oddly, the Presidential Medal of Freedom he later received for that was not in the skip) is bewildering. Certainly it had nothing to do with the publication, two years before he was ousted, of GQ editor Dylan Jones’s Cameron On Cameron, as rigorous and hard-hitting a political biography as any since Conrad Black’s elongated billet-doux to Richard M Nixon.
Lammy for Mayor? Ignorance is no obstacle
Great excitement here in London as the Labour MP David Lammy declares an interest in running for Mayor in 2016. We wish him all the luck in the world with that, and hope no one is vulgar enough to bang on about his 2008 Celebrity Mastermind appearance, when he told John Humphrys that Henry VIII was succeeded by his son, Henry VII; that Red Leicester is a blue cheese; and that the Marie who won the Nobel Prize for researching radioactivity was Antoinette. He further replied that the French revolution prison in which pre-guillotine aristocrats were held was the Palace of Versailles. But since he is running for Mayor of London, and not of Paris, we’ll hear no more about that.
Praise be to the grand inquisitor of the spooks
I hugely enjoyed Malcom Rifkind’s chairing of his select committee when it hosted the three security chiefs last week. Independent-mindedness on such a lavish scale is a rare thing from former defence and foreign secretaries, who tend to go native. If I have one quibble, it is that Malcolm did not go far enough.
He forgot to ask the boys from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ if they had anything to say to a grateful nation, and to present each of them with a cake he had baked himself along with a kiss on the lips when they left. But that’s pedantry to the point of churlishness, and we thank the Torquemada of spookery for his fearsome forensic efforts on behalf of us all.