Matthew Norman: Now, now, do try to keep it clean, Nadine

Sunday 23 October 2011 03:56

Troublesome as BP has found stopping that Gulf of Mexico gush, David Cameron may find it harder to staunch the flow from the honeyed mouth of Nadine Dorries. Among the more supple political thinkers of the age – you may recall her identifying the expenses revelations as a "McCarthyite witch-hunt" – the Tory member for Mid Bedfordshire is livid about her government's threat to the lifelong right to council houses like her childhood home in Liverpool.

Yesterday's Mail on Sunday piece was a delight for the glorious line, "Margaret Thatcher knew all about the Big Society. She started it." Oh but she did dough, didn't she dough? Right up Thatch's street, utopian idealism. On Saturday, Nadine went on Today and was asked by John Humphrys if she'd discussed this issue face to face with George Osborne. "I haven't, John," she replied. "As you very well know, this is a masturbator..." One appreciates her avoidance of the w word, and a character reading others reached a while ago. But it won't do for a Tory MP to call her Chancellor that on live radio. An apology is required, and the last thing I want to hear from Nadine is any nonsense about meaning to say: "This is a mass debate, er..." Take the shame, Nadine, and for heaven's sake pipe down.

* As part of Lembit Opik's brave rearguard against his own crippling bashfulness, he has taken a job on the telly. The reticent asteroid fancier will present A Simple Question (yeah, like he could handle any other kind) on the station owned by Iran's government. "I don't see that Press TV is 'controversial'," so a peevish Lembit tells a so-called rival, adding sternly: "It is not for one media organisation to pass judgement on another." How exceedingly true this is. Were it not, one might pass judgement on Lembit earning from the persecutors of the Baha'is, "who are pretty much excluded from higher education", as Hansard records him observing, "and tend to suffer random arrests in considerable numbers".

* While Nadine surges towards the front bench, Jack Straw's journey the other way is very sad. How we'll miss the man hired by Barbara Castle for his low cunning who later proved that, along with the slithery survivalist talent, went so much else. There was his... and his, umm... look, there was always much more to Jack than ingratiation, buck-passing, and never quite knowing what he knew about the torture of British nationals. No political memoir since Norman Fowler's has been as keenly awaited. What he does believe in will, come publication day, be a joy to discover.

* That lovable Minder extra Alan Johnson is cross with Ed Miliband for suggesting that Labour was careless with our civil liberties. "Well, he never said that in three years sitting around the cabinet table," sniffs Alan to The Times. "I can't think of a single issue on which Labour got the balance wrong on civil liberties." Aha. Anyone wondering about early onset Alzheimer's, chill out. Alan's fine. It's merely that when he insisted he isn't bright enough to be PM, this was a rare instance of a politician following the teachings of the philosopher Callaghan (Harold, that is, of the LA police) that a man's just gotta know his limitations.

* Good to see Radio 5 Live still eschewing the easy phone-in options with Nicky Campbell asking whether all prisoners deserve protection inside, regardless of their crimes. This was the most intelligent enquiry of its kind since Nicky's colleague Victoria Derbyshire wondered, with the nurse Beverly Allitt in mind, if it's ever right to fire someone for something done in the workplace.

* Elsewhere in the Beeb, the calf is being fattened. Alex Ferguson is reportedly close to ending his boycott of the BBC in response to a 2004 documentary questioning the ethics of his agent son, Jason. God knows how Match of the Day survived without Fergie's captivating 30-second post-game analyses.

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