Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary

Posh, but not as posh as Posh Ed
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The Independent Online

The BBC's popular North America editor, Justin Webb, will be a fine addition to the 'Today' programme team. But did he unwittingly precipitate Stourton's sacking? Back in March, I asked Webb whether Andrew Billen's claim that he was due to move to 'Today' after the president's inauguration was true, to which he replied: "I can tell you hand on heart that I read this with amazement." Yet someone at the BBC had plans for him. He had been hoping to stay longer in the US with his young family, but has since been discouraged by the BBC from thinking in such terms. As he is a popular presenter, the BBC was no doubt keen to keep Webb in some capacity, and a few weeks ago the offer of 'Today' was duly made. Sadly, it seems that Stourton is deemed the weakest link and must now say goodbye.

Why has James Purnell taken himself off Facebook? Until last week the Work and Pensions Secretary was an enthusiastic advocate of the social networking site, boasting several hundred friends. Could this sudden abstention from the pokes and jokes have anything to do with rumours that he has finally named a date to marry his long-term fiancée Lucy Walker? It wouldn't do for messages of congratulation from friends to appear on his wall before he had got round to telling the public. Alas, the minister was yesterday unavailable for comment, via Facebook or otherwise.

How they hooted when Gordon Brown accidentally said he'd saved the world! Of course, he meant to say the "banks", but if ever there were a glimpse into his deranged mind it was this, wasn't it? Maybe not. Gail Jefferson, a conversation analyst, in her paper 'On the Poetics of Ordinary Talk', claims that a wrong word can slip out if the speaker has just repeated a particular consonant several times. Communications consultant Max Atkinson points out that, before his mistake, Brown had said, "The first point of recapitalisation was to save banks that would otherwise have collapsed, and we've not only saved the world..." Mmm....

Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar, who fired off the letter complaining of the Government's irresponsible handling of knife crime data, pinned the blame on officials and advisers in Downing Street. He, of any civil servant, should not be surprised by the nefarious tricks of spin-doctors – as Gordon Brown's chief of staff, his son Tom Scholar was chief among them until earlier this year.

A further father-and-son curiosity occurred when the BBC's political correspondent Ben Wright appeared on the news to report that story. He referred to the chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, but, oddly, didn't mention him by name. Perhaps because he is more accustomed to referring to Tony Wright, the MP for Cannock Chase, simply as Dad.

Not for the first time, Pamela Anderson's reputation has preceded her. Organisers of the Millionaire Fair in Amsterdam – my invitation has yet to arrive – suddenly cancelled a press conference with Pammy when alerted to her vehement opposition to the use of fur. Pammy had, it turns out, dashed off a letter to Queen Beatrix asking for her support and closing with the splendidly deferential line, "I hope that my next visit will be to celebrate a complete ban on fur farming in Holland."

Scientist Matt Ridley offers a cheering thought for those of us who lie awake at night fretting about the ice caps. Choosing his most under-rated fact of the year, he tells 'Prospect' that although the Arctic sea ice is shrinking, the largest Antarctic sea ice cover since records began was recorded at the end of 2007. So perhaps we shouldn't worry. Then again, this is the man who, as chairman of Northern Rock, spent years arguing in favour of the deregulation of the banks, and look where that got us.

Revenge is supposedly best served cold, but for Kate Fassett, freshly sacked crossword editor of 'The Daiily Telegraph', her last clues were too good a chance to miss. Three down in Friday's puzzle reads, "Get rid of The Tel. Editor? Some would appear upset!" Bravo!

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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