Matthew Norman on Monday: If there are any heroes, Andy Burnham's not one of them

Plus: You'll win nothing with a bunch of kids, Ed; Mensch manages to find a Tory suicide method and childless women, beware this Brave New World


In the most convincing political cover version since David Duke and the KKK Equality Choir recorded “Free Mandela Nelson”, Andy Burnham samples Bonnie Tyler. The mascara model who moonlights as shadow health secretary hasn’t released the single yet, and perhaps he never will. Yet one could not read the interview in which he challenged Ed Miliband’s authority by calling on Labour to “shout louder”, and tried to bounce him into endorsing his NHS masterplan, without hearing “Holding Out For A Hero” in Andy’s scouse dulcets?

“Where have all the good men gone/ And where all the gods? Where’s the street-wise Hercules/ To fight the rising odds?” The odds against a Labour majority in 2015 may be rising, but is Andy the street-wise Hercules to reverse that trend? He clearly thinks so, believing his brand of ostentatiously big-hearted blethering makes him the white knight on a fiery steed.

Yet there are dangers in self-aggrandising challenges to the leader’s authority. Mouthy Labour backbencher John Mann is quick to tweet-slap the disloyalty. He has a point. The ballad suggested to Andy, fresh from the fight over whether he tried to cover up NHS scandals as Health Secretary, is “The Sound of Silence”. There are, as The Stranglers pointed out, no more heroes any more. And if there were, not one of them would be that bumptious pipsqueak Andy Burnham.

Miliband should make a call to Alan Johnson

With others questioning his abilities, the younger Milibandroid apparently means to promote youth in an imminent reshuffle. Good luck to him if he thinks surrounding himself with more callow mediocrities is  the answer.

If he wants to become PM, on the other hand, he will replace Ed Balls with Alastair Darling; recall Peter Mandelson in a roving sweeper’s role; and give Alan Johnson the Works and Pensions portfolio, with a brief to use the life story recounted in his glorious memoir This Boy to remind us that monstrously deprived children can escape the limitations of grinding poverty with a little help from their friends with benefits. The rockin’ postie who grew up on bread and dripping versus Iain Duncan Smith, who lives rent-free in his wife’s father’s Tudor mansion... There’s a head-on collision you might pay to watch.

Mensch manages to find a Tory suicide method

In the Sun on Sunday, Louise Mensch defends “male best friend” Jacob Rees-Mogg after that studiedly eccentric Tory MP attended a far-right group’s dinner, by calling on David Cameron to promote him to the front bench. Relocating to New York has done nothing to dull Louise’s political antennae. What better for a PM under perpetual attack for narrow elitism than giving a ministerial post to a chap fondly remembered by an Eton contemporary, at the age of 14, “walking around with an umbrella, like it was a cane, calling people plebs.” Perfect.

Patronising women is just not cricket, Shane

Following John Inverdale’s chivalrous thoughts about Marion Bartoli’s looks, we seek antidotes to antediluvian locker room thinking where we may. So my thanks to the immortal Shane Warne for his Sky Sports commentary on Friday, when the camera picked out a couple of young females in the Chester-le-Street crowd.

“Nice to see women coming to the game, watching the cricket,” cooed the former  larrikin turned Liz Hurley’s immaculately sculpted fiancé. “Kids and families and women. It’s great.” Isn’t it though? “Not  just all men watching the cricket. Fantastic to see. Look at that! Fantastic. All got their  nice hats on too. Wonderful.” If you crave  any more, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is at a cinema near you.

Spicer strikes a blow for sexism and stereotype

Beneath the Daily Mail headline, “Any woman who says she’s happy to be childless is a liar or a fool”, Kate Spicer promotes that title’s belief that, far from doing Andrea Dworkin’s posthumous bidding by wearing nice hats to the cricket, women should be rearing babies.

Ms Spicer, childless in her 40s, fears for the future if younger and almost equally gifted women fail to reproduce. “Have you read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World with its population graded from the top, Alpha, down to Epsilon?” she asks, begging the question of how closely she read it herself. “If educated, successful women like me don’t breed, are  we gearing up for a generation of Epsilon minus semi-morons?”

One day, God willing, Huxley’s dystopian technology will allow us to clone the alpha plus likes of herself in the lab. For now, Kate, keep taking the soma.

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