Pity poor Robert Peston: economist, entertainer, shrinking violet
Not since that 1982 night when the Queen Mother’s life lay in the balance after emergency surgery to remove a fishbone has the nation held its breath as today. Will Robert Peston join ITV as political editor, or stay with the BBC?
After a frantic week in which desperate BBC colleagues offered him inducements to remain such as the sacrifice of a kidney, we still don’t know. But as the all-night vigils continue, pity the hero of this consuming melodrama.
For a chap as bashful, reticent and devoid of ego as Robert, the publicity that goes with being broadcast journalism’s most hotly contested tug-of-love baby must be nothing less than agonising. He could have done no more to shun the limelight. Take the Hugh Grant meets Lord Byron tousled hairdo, cunningly wrought for anonymity. Or that recent exchange with George Osborne in Beijing when – shirt unbuttoned for the benefit of an audience in continual need of erotic stimulation – he was one medallion away from securing a cruise ship booking as a down-the-bill Latino crooner.
And yet, ferociously as Peston has fought to hold the line between journalism and showbiz, he finds that a private career dilemma has inexplicably seeped into the public domain. How this has happened, and who can say? Certainly, it would be nothing less than spiteful mischief-making to suggest that the gifted PR fixer Roland Rudd, Peston’s friend and onetime Financial Times workmate, may have has played any informal part in the flow of information.
Anwyay, we wish Robert the best as he weighs up the BBC offer (an additional weekly Newsnight presenting slot and a healthy salary hike) against life as a large fish in ITV’s comparatively tiny news pond.
This column’s advice is adapted from The Clash. If he stays he might make double. If he goes, recalling the sad history of BBC faces who left for ITV (Morecambe and Wise, Des Lynam, Adrian Chiles, etc), he’ll be in trouble. Albeit with the consolation that he may find the obscurity he so craves.
Wiggaz With Attitude: Osborne’s love of NWA
On the eve of the Tory conference, George Osborne gives a coded shout-out to the blue rinses by his love for NWA. He just adores the rapster collective from Compton, CA which launched the staunchly conservative likes of Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Dr Dre.
Osborne – or Eazy-O as he henceforth wants to be known – becomes the first Tory Chancellor to out himself as gangsta since Geoffrey Howe called Mrs Thatcher his “ho” in the sternly monetarist Budget of 1980. Home secretary Theresa May is said to be livid with Eazy-O for encroaching on her turf by appropriating an NWA classic. “How dare he swan around singing ‘Fuck Da Police’,” she may or may not have been overheard hissing. “That, as the Police Federation will tell you, is my song.”
Khan and Javid fight it out for a place on the bus
Word reaches us of a highly unusual sextuple-barrelled first name. After applying for deed poll, Labour’s London mayoral canidate is legally registered as Son-Of-A-Bus-Driver-Sadiq Khan.
Not that he’s obsessed with mentioning it as his fight with billionaire’s boy Zak Goldsmith commences, of course. But when a speechwriter showed him a draft devoid of any paternal bus driving reference, and told him he can’t mention it in every speech, Khan tartly told him to put it back in at once.
One day, S-O-A-B-D-S-Khan may be fighting for No 10 with Tory business secretary Sajiv Javid, whose late dad was also a bus driver (and at times a conductor).
Do you get the feeling we’re heading for a revival of a Seventies ITV sitcom On The Buses, perhaps renamed Muslim Politician On The Buses?
If ITV need a decisive extra enticement for Robert Peston, they could even promise him the role of Inspector Blake (“Blakey”). That would surely be the clincher in their battle with the Beeb for their Economics Editor.
Flash photography (with Corbyn) is not permitted
After an exhausting week in Brighton, Labour’s new leader chose to relax Corbyn-style by travelling by rail to Scotland (he’s in more trains these days than Michael Portillo) to do some orating.
On the return trip, Jeremy was asked to give an impromptu address to a hen party. Apparently he went down a storm, though sadly little pictorial record of the event is extant.
Jezza made the photographer swear not to upload one particular snap, possibly because he was holding a comedy genital accoutrement the ladies had with them. Odd, really. Given the lack of photo opportunities with Chuka Umunna, you’d have thought he’d take any chance to be seen with an absurdly inflated cock. Still, there it is.
The unmistakable ambiguity of Kelvin McKenzie
Great to see The Sun redoubling its efforts to build bridges with the people of Merseyside.
Star pidgin English columnist Kelvin McKenzie, who played a small part in the Hillsborough coverage that caused the froideur, leads the way. “I love seeing trade union leaders frothing at the mouth (especially that Liverpool tosser Len McCluskey) …” begins an item.
Amnesiac Kelvin has long struggled to remember if he wants to apologise for the quasi blood libel against the city, or to stick to his guns. He changes his mind from week to week, bless him, so stand by for a tear-stained mea culpa on Friday.
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