Matthew Norman: The minister who decided it was the right time to sell up


Related Topics

Raw courage being the extreme political rarity it is, we celebrate it where we may. So a deafening bravo to the Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan. With bravery bordering on recklessness, it emerges, Cheryl sold her constituency home in Amersham in November, despite it standing 500 yards from the newly announced rail link HS2 (not to be confused with David Miliband, who is of course R2D2).

The cynics and sneerers will ask why – having spent 20 years lavishing often justified expenses upon it – she offloaded it then, and without buying a replacement. But I'm convinced by the explanation that neither she nor 84-year-old husband John could manage the stairs.

In truth she looks agile enough, while God knows why John needed to stay the night when their main home is just 30 miles away in Esher. And if he did, one of Thora Hird's stairlifts might have cost less than a 20 per cent cut on the asking price for a quick sale, legal fees, stamp duty, etc. Then again, it may now be worth even less than the £320,000 received, so swings and roundabouts there. No one could doubt Cheryl's integrity. These coincidences happen all the time. Even so, join me in a prayer that the Esher house is a bungalow.

One man's global crusade to offend

Equally fearless is a Chipping Norton chum of Cheryl's gaffer. Jeremy Clarkson defiantly sustains his crusade to offend every country on earth. "So, they've had 18ft of snow in the Austrian Alps. And still managed to keep the roads open. That's the upside of living in Austria," wrote the Dorothy Parker of The Sun. "The downside is everything else." As Ricky Gervais' Golden Globes audience doubtless appreciated last night, the wickedly amoral thing about staggering wit is that it sweeps all objections from its path.

Vikram Seth strikes back at Jeremy 'Prat-son'

OK, not quite all. Umbraged by Jerermy's critique of his homeland, the Indian novelist Vikram Seth, deems himself a suitable boy to counterstrike through the medium of limerick. "There once was a chav called Clarkson," his effort begins, before concluding, "No wonder he talks shit, this prat son."

I'm sure Vikram did his best, but with all the terrible scansion and not-quite-rhymes, his succincter efforts appear less readable than his very long books. In this trade we call it Hugo Young Syndrome By Proxy.

Keeping it clean on Radio 4

Vikram is on Desert Island Discs next Sunday, and what an act he has to follow. Yesterday's castaway was that one-time sternly moralistic columnist Paul Johnson, 83 now and as adorable as ever.

I loved my sane and rational friend's reflections on Denis Thatcher's comedy stylings ("I can almost hear it mooing," he recalled Denis complaining of underdone beef), while among Paul's choices was "When I'm Cleaning Windows". Apparently he wanted George Formby's more outré version, "When I'm Smacking Bottoms", but some nervous Nellie at Radio 4 objected.

Not all bad for Fergie

Two silver linings for the Duchess of York if she must do Turkish bird. Steven Spielberg will clear her debts by casting her in a remake of Midnight Express. And think of all the weight loss.

Now Carlos can't play tennis either

More trouble for Man City refusenik Carlos Tevez whose local council has not only made him bulldoze the tennis hard court he installed without permission in Alderley Edge. It has also refused him leave to replace it with a grass one, on the grounds this would be "inappropriate in the green belt," and quite right too. A grass lawn? In the green belt? Whoever heard of such a thing?


Once again I am saddened to find the Sabbath papers fixating on the Family Blair's finances. While one title obsesses about Mr T's complex corporate arrangements, another dwells on Cherie's involvement with a US hedge fund seeking to raise £65m to open – what else for a one-time Bennite? – private health clinics. Anyone who regards Mr and Mrs Tony's commercial activities as the perfect New Labour vignette is frankly a fool. That honour belongs to second son Nicky's career progression from teacher to football agent. As Harold Steptoe despairingly put it at a funereal gathering of the clan, what a bleedin' family.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page


General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk