Andrew Johnson: The IoS Diary (12/12/10)

Always digs itself out, in the end

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Now that we can be 100 per cent certain that the PM's media chief, Andy Coulson, knew nothing at all, oh no, about the widespread phone hacking that went on during his time at the
News of the World, can we also be certain that News International will stop paying out large amounts to settle private cases with those who believe otherwise?

IoS readers will recall that Max Clifford was paid £1m and Gordon Taylor £750,000, to prevent the matter coming to court. So will showbiz agent Sky Andrew, who is bringing a similar case, be sent away empty-handed? Last week, a court ordered full disclosure – by a month from today – of the paper's files on the matter, but on past form, chequebook peace has always broken out just in time. Watch this space.

And still on Coulson, while he was in court last week, as a witness in the Tommy Sheridan perjury case in Glasgow, he gave the impression that, having taken legal advice, his fees had been paid by his former bosses at News International. This has caught the eye of Labour MP Tom Watson, who suspects any such payment may constitute a "gift" (or at least may invite suspicion of a lingering outside influence), and therefore needs to be declared to his civil service bosses. Just to make absolutely certain (many a slip, and all that), Watson has dropped a line to Cabinet Secretary, Gus O'Donnell.

The Ivy Restaurant, favoured dining establishment of the famous who don't mind being photographed, recently celebrated its 20th birthday by putting on a play written by the award-winning Sir Ronald Harwood.

Each night, the week-long production ended with a rousing rendition of Noel Coward's wartime ditty, Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans, and the well-heeled diners lustily joined in. Except, that is, for the last night, when a table of six didn't seem to be enjoying the full experience. They were, need you ask, German.

Out of the mouths of babes. Ed Miliband's ascension to the Labour leadership may have rent the left-wing dynasty apart, but the full story of how at least one member of the family can see the bigger picture has reached me. David Miliband's six-year-old son, Isaac, was not too disappointed that it was his daddy's little brother who landed the "big job" rather than his father. "Hooray for Uncle Eddie," was his initial reaction from the back of the car on learning the news. His young mind then cut to the chase, as young minds are wont to do. "Does that mean we still get to stay at Chevening?" he asked, referring to the 115-room mansion in Kent, the grace and favour home for the sitting Foreign Secretary. Alas, poor Isaac had to learn his first lesson in the disappointments of life. "No," was the curt reply from his mum, Louise Shackelton.

Katie Price is fuming at Channel 4's decision to rebroadcast Frankie Boyle's ultra-tasteless joke about her son Harvey, discussed on page 21 by Janet Street-Porter. The repeat of his Tramadol Nights went out, uncut, on Friday, despite her complaint last week to Ofcom. "Channel 4 are embracing and exploiting discrimination. They are saying it is OK to ridicule people – even children – for disability, in a way they would not dare over race or sexual orientation. The people who control the Channel are endorsing this behaviour and it is disgusting." She says Channel Four is trying to take us back to an era of Bernard Manning. "There is a bigger issue here," she adds. "It is whether we want to accept it is OK for anyone, never mind a publicly- owned TV Channel, to treat disability discrimination differently from other forms of unacceptable discrimination."

On the subject of Bernard Manning, I hear he has an unlikely fan in, wait for it, John Cooper Clarke, right-on poet, below, loved for his witty chroniclings of life in the less salubrious areas of Britain's inner cities. How could this be? Well, both were born in rough areas around Manchester – Manning, who died in 2007, in Ancoats, and Cooper Clarke in Salford.

"I love Bernard Manning," Cooper Clarke told the Camden New Journal. "You didn't know who he was going to upset – it's admirable. Who amongst us doesn't want to be liked? Bernard didn't, and that's admirable. To understand Bernard's humour you have to know his world.

"It's the same with firemen, policemen and nurses – they couldn't do their jobs if they didn't have a buffer zone." Same here....

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