Diary: No love lost at BBC for Oliver

High Street Ken
Wednesday 02 March 2011 01:00

A first for this column, which was quoted on yesterday's Today programme by a gleeful Justin Webb. The source of Webb's amusement was newspaper coverage of Craig Oliver, No10's new spin chief, arriving for work wearing headphones that I described as "denoting a middle-aged man keen to convince passers-by that he was once deeply into hip-hop".

A question arises, however, as to why Webb and his presenting partner Evan Davis should be so tickled at the expense of their ex-BBC colleague. Perhaps they have pals at the World Service, where Oliver was formerly controller of global news, and designated hatchet man when the cuts came. When his new appointment was announced, says an insider who shall remain nameless, the mood at World Service HQ was one of "surprise, celebration and relief". Cameron hired Oliver for his communication skills; I'm informed, however, that "there weren't many people at the World Service who saw that as one of his strengths." And now, for your continued amusement, that old picture of Craig in lederhosen.

* Anne Robinson, wink-prone host of BBC2's My Life in Books, has lent her support to a legal challenge to library closures by some councils. Campaigners claim the Big Society-based plans fall short of legal obligations to library services. The minister responsible for this particular policy area is GQ columnist Ed Vaizey, who this week plumbed the depths of parliamentary ethics by using a libraries debate to give himself some "in-House publicity". During said debate, Labour's Valerie Vaz noted Vaizey's absence from the list of 59 MPs who are published authors. "I took the more relaxed approach to authorship in deciding to be an editor rather than an author," Vaizey replied. "I have edited three volumes: A Blue Tomorrow, The Blue Book on Health and The Blue Book on Transport. A Blue Tomorrow, which... was the start of the process of Conservative modernisation, reached the dizzy heights of the 20,046th bestseller on Amazon. I will, perhaps when I leave my ministerial position or when I leave this House, become an author when I publish my memoirs. I have already thought of the title: Fun While It Lasted." If Robinson and co get their way, it may not last too long.

* A reader reminds me that John Galliano's alleged professed love of Hitler is not entirely without precedent: Christian Dior, from whose fashion house Galliano has just been fired, spent the war dressing the wives of Nazi officers and French collaborators. Hugo Boss was a member of the Nazi party – his firm famously manufactured uniforms for the SS. Coco Chanel was one of the notorious "horizontal collaborators", enjoying an affair with a German officer during the occupation of Paris. Sadly for Galliano, Hitler-love hasn't been on-trend since circa 1942.

* More sterling work from brand synergy specialist Elisa Roche, showbusiness editor of the Daily Express, who yesterday managed to squeeze an entire two-page spread from the news that her boss – philanthropist and former publisher of Asian Babes, Richard Desmond – had launched "The Health Lottery", a new lottery game designed to raise money for health charities. Admittedly, almost half of the aforementioned spread was taken up by a large picture of Desmond (who owns Television X, Express Newspapers, OK! magazine and Channel 5) and his girlfriend, flanked by fellow guests at the "star-studded" launch. "Celebrities who were keen to show their support for the fantastic new lottery," the optimistic Ms Roche dutifully reports, "included Kirsty Duffy, from Channel 5's The Wright Stuff, [Channel 5] weathergirl Sian Welby, OK! TV's Matt Johnson and Kate Walsh, Zoe Salmon of Fiver's The Love Bus and Channel 5 news presenters Emma Crosby and Matt Barbet."

* An apology: in yesterday's column I suggested that "No one would ever accuse Lembit [Opik] of laziness." This was the weak punchline to a poorly executed joke; it was also inaccurate. It has since been brought to my attention that Mr Opik has indeed been accused of laziness, by his ex-fiancée Siâ* Lloyd, who said in 2007: "When we bought a house together, it was me who had to sort out the builders and the decorators. I did everything for him, right down to sorting out his dry cleaning." I regret the original publication of the joke and retract it.


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