Diary: Marco gets on the gravy train

High Street Ken
Tuesday 15 March 2011 01:00

Easily angered chef Marco Pierre White is a compelling televisual presence, so anyone who saw him fire John McCririck from Hell's Kitchen (for criticising his food) will be disappointed to learn that he's just turned down the chance to make a prime-time cooking programme for the BBC – as well as an equally lucrative project for a Canadian broadcaster.

However, fans of the fiery knife-wielder will still, praise be, get to see him on screen. "I have signed a deal to advertise Knorr globally," I'm told by White, 49, who is paid handsomely to promote Germany's most celebrated stock cubes (and gravy). "Advertising on television is far better for business than doing Hell's Kitchen or any other programmes."

It's lucky White's so keen on Knorr's many culinary aids, since he could really do with the cash: he and his similarly volatile wife, Mati, recently reconciled, just as they were about to finalise an acrimonious (and now abandoned) three-year divorce, which cost them an estimated £3m in legal fees.

* More rich material for my joint biopic of George (né Gideon) Osborne and his shadow, Ed Balls, provisionally entitled A Cock and Balls. Balls seemed a tad stroppy on The Daily Politics yesterday, after he and Miliband (E)'s monthly press conference failed to attract the attention of a single news channel. (Which, given events elsewhere in the world, seemed fair enough to me.) But then Balls had particular reason to hope for coverage: unlike his predecessor, Alan Johnson, who was relegated to a chair beside the party leader's podium, Balls had a podium all to himself – almost as if he were, say, the co-leader. And just in case anyone doubted he was getting above himself, Balls was also quoted dispensing wisdom on the things "you learn about being Chancellor..." That Balls ever occupied the role will surely come as news to Alistair Darling.

* CUT TO: The Treasury. Gideon watches as Danny flicks through the rolling news channels, finding nothing but coverage of the earthquake in Japan. GIDEON: "So, no one's covering the Miliband/Balls press conference? No one at all?" DANNY: "Not even the BBC!" They share a look, then cackle to one another maniacally.

* Not long ago, Tom Bradby, Prince William's preferred journalist and the political editor of ITV News, was complaining on Twitter about the estimated pay of BBC rivals such as Andrew Marr and Huw Edwards. "No, I am not jealous," he insisted at the time – but boy, did he go on about it, anyway. One benefit of not being employed by the Beeb, however, is that he can enjoy the fruits of the after-dinner speaking circuit with impunity – unlike Marr, Maitlis, Paxman et al, who were banned from the books of speaking agency JLA in 2009 because it breached corporation guidelines. Bradby, I'm informed, signed up with JLA some months before Marr's £600,000 salary was leaked, but even all those cracking Wills & Kate anecdotes can't seem to get him into the big leagues: he's classified as a lowly C-grade speaker, putting him on a par with Steve Davis and Stanley Johnson, with a nightly fee of no more than £5,000. Sadly, he's yet to even take a booking. "He hasn't done anything for us yet," confirms Jeremy Lee of JLA, "but he appears to be keen as mustard."

* A helpful (Labour-voting) reader in Sheffield reminds me of a claim made by Nick "29 Shags" Clegg prior to his party's conference in the city over the weekend. The occasion, he confidently predicted, would bring in £2.5m to his adopted home. In the event, not only did police spend £2m to protect the party faithful from protesters, but the local shopkeepers who might have benefited are moaning that their stores were deserted, due to a widespread fear of angry students breaking stuff.

* Ken Loach, still studenty after all these years, told Michael Heseltine on Newsnight last year that he was "responsible for a generation of misery, failure and hopelessness". But, Loach tells The Word magazine, he'd have given old Tarzan a far easier ride if only he'd been more polite. "I'd waited a long time to tell him what I thought of him and what his crew had done. So I did," says the filmmaker. "But what made it so much easier was that he was so rude to me before we began – so arrogant. He ignored me as if I was his gardener who happened to have wandered on set."


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