Diary: A vile campaign targeting high-minded public figures

Matthew Norman
Monday 08 November 2010 01:00 GMT

Will this vile persecution of Andy Coulson never cease? Time and again I have stated here that this Dreyfus du jour knew nothing of the naughtiness committed during his News of the World editorship. He ran the show in the laissez-faire style of his hero Peregrine Worsthorne at The Sunday Telegraph, and was as shocked (shocked!) as anyone by these allegations. Yet with those ignorant of red-top mores continuing to torment him, thank heavens for Ed Balls, who defended Andy after his little chat with the Met last week by insisting that a chap is innocent until proven guilty.

Now some, recalling how as Children's Secretary Ed so brutally removed Sharon Shoesmith long before the inquiry into Baby P's death, might wonder whether this epiphany of his about the presumption of innocence is designed to ingratiate him with the Murdoch press, with any future leadership bid in mind.

Arrant cobblers. The truth is that, if anything, Ed is too genteel for combat politics. But precisely the same could be said of David Cameron's chief spin doctor, and this campaign to drive the high-minded out of public life is precisely the sort of odious cynicism up with which we must not put.

* Someone whose devotion to the Murdoch empire has never been in doubt is my old friend Jon Gaunt, and what a busy boy he's been. Not only did Gaunty raise both the cerebral and sartorial tone on BBC1's Question Time on Thursday, where he appeared in a fetching pink shirt. Earlier that day, he thrilled listeners to Richard Bacon's Radio 5 Live show with a moving cri de coeur for Rupert to be allowed to foxify Sky News. Gaunty seems to regard himself as Britain's Glenn Beck-in-waiting, and so do I. If we must have our own Tea Party, could there be a more seemly lead chimp?

* What a Saturday night for The X Factor judges, with Louis Walsh telling Paije Richardson (short, plump, 19 and black) that he was "like a little Lenny Henry". Let's hope Louis suffers no backlash. It was solely Paije's fault for turning up to rehearsals with a 20st ex-wife in a dog collar, and doing sensationally unfunny impressions of his old Jamaican mum. And let's not forget Simon Cowell's lurch into gnomic philosophy. "If you have a lion," he said of TreyC Cohen (190-1 to win The X Factor; longer odds for any forthcoming spelling bee), "you want it to bite you, not lick you." Do you, Simon? Is that what you want? If Simon does buy the rights to Sky's Cirque du Celebrité, possibly best if he leaves mentoring the lion-tamers to Louis.

* Still with ITV Saturday prime time, I am upset to note Adam Boulton misrepresenting the great Harry Hill. "I regret losing my temper," writes Sky's political editor in his book of the post-election contretemps in which he queenily rebutted Alastair Campbell's accusation of pro-Tory bias, "but I stand by the comments I made. It was a Harry Hill 'fight, fight' moment..." What Adam overlooks is that Harry always introduces the scrap that ends the first half of his satirical show TV Burp with the declaration that he likes both contenders. Which is hardly appropriate here.

* Stories For Which You Must Write Your Own Gags, No 1. In Florida on Thursday, Mr Tony Blair will earn £50,000 for addressing a conference of toilet-roll manufacturers and purveyors of other choice sanitary products. Season punchline to taste, and ingest.

* Timely confirmation of the culture of All Souls' high table effeteness fostered by Andy Coulson comes from the News of the World columnist Carole Malone. On a £1m donation to charity by the actor Ricky Tomlinson, who spent a chunk of his twenties in the National Front before lurching leftward, she writes: "Now that's what REAL socialism ... is all about." Oh Carol, it certainly is. Real socialism is all about wealthy individuals rendering state welfare redundant by giving chunks of their fortune to the deserving poor. That's how one of the great socialist prophets put it anyway – though whether it was Marx or Thatcher I can never quite recall.

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