Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We Live In The Shadows And We Had The Chance And Threw It Away

This blog has received several dozen hits over the last couple of days from dear blog readers, seemingly, trying to find out exactly why Sunday night's episode of ITV's very popular crime drama Vera was postponed and replaced with a repeat of an old episode of Lewis. The basic reason appears to be that the Vera episode in question - Sandancers - had a plot which concerned the suspicious death of a soldier at an army barracks. Tragically, on the morning that the episodes was due to be shown, two British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. ITV, therefore, seem to have decided that showing the episode as scheduled might be seen - by someone with an agenda, no doubt - as some kind of 'sick stunt' designed purely to upset grieving families. Despite, of course, the fact that the episode in question was filmed and scheduled several months previously. It's always a tricky one for TV networks this, because there will always be someone - again, usually with an agenda - simply waiting to criticise them whatever decision they take. The episode will, apparently, be shown 'at a later date.'

The opening of Monday night's final episode of Domonic Sandbrook's mostly terrific if a bit, at times, Ladybird Book The 70s reminded yer actual Keith Telly Topping of the single most ridiculous lyrics in the history of rock music. From Thin Lizzy: 'Tonite, there's gonna be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town.' Err... the jail, perhaps, Phil?
So, anyway, as previous noted, to the massive gurning disappointing of various hippy-Communist lice bullies in the Gruniad Morning Star newsroom, Top Gear added yet another trophy to its growing collection over the weekend, claiming the Honorary Rose Award at the Rose d'Or Festival in Switzerland. Executive producer Andrew Wilman was in Lucerne to collect the prize for the programme's global appeal and to spill the secrets of the show's success at a forum discussion. 'A lot of the credit has to go to the BBC,' he said. 'They really know how to nurture a programme and they allowed us the time to develop the format into the show you see today.' It also allowed the three presenters time to cement a 'genuine' relationship that was at the heart of the viewer experience, believed Jezza Clarkson who joined Wilman at the event. 'You can't rush it; viewers can tell when that stuff is fake.' Collecting the honour, the presenter described his role on the BBC2 programme which has become a worldwide hit as 'the best job in the world and I hope I can do it forever'.

Another story we mentioned, briefly, on Monday but which deserves to get highlighted again; Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are reported to be reuniting for a 'secret' new project. The duo, whose most memorable collaboration was the groundbreaking BBC sketch show A Bit of Fry & Laurie, will be working together 'soon' – but details of what they are planning are, currently, thin on the ground. Qi host, Norwich City director and 'the smartest man in the world' Fry tweeted: 'M'coll Hugh Laurie and I are cooking up a project together. We will be working again soon. Sorry to be mysterious but more news when I can.' As well as their sketch show, the duo starred in a TV adaptation of PG Wodehouse' Jeeves and Wooster between 1990 and 1993. They last reunited in 2010 for a GOLD retrospective, celebrating thirty years of their TV partnership. Laurie, who is also pursuing a music career, recently shot the final season of his lucrative medical drama House. Meanwhile, there's a very good piece on the Radio Times website by Jack Seale about the Fry and Laurie legacy that's well worth a few moments of your time: 'In his 2010 book The Fry Chronicles, Fry wrote of his restless versatility as actor, writer, presenter et cetera: "By being afraid to commit to one I commit to none... I know that I have a reputation for cleverness and articulacy, but I also know that people must wonder why I haven't quite done better with my life and talents. A jack of so many trades and manifestly a master of none." I was shouting at the page when I read this, wondering if Fry had genuinely forgotten the programmes he and Laurie made between 1989 and 1995. Fry thinks he has done lots of good things but no single great one – he is wrong. And while it's hardly a tragedy that Hugh Laurie will be remembered for starring in House, which is or was the biggest TV show on the planet, he once did something better. There's not been a textbook sketch show since A Bit of Fry & Laurie to touch it – the first series of Big Train is probably closest, but isn't quite there. Every modern sketcher is not half as well performed and relies too heavily on repeated sketches. Fry and Laurie never brought characters back unless it was worth it (the hard-drinking Uttoxeter health-club executives Peter and John being an example) and they wrote every word of the learned, silly, softly political, perfectly structured material themselves.' Ah, damn it, Peter and Jaaaaahn and their 'best Goddamn health club in You-Toxetter!' That brings back some golden memories.

Sherlock actor, writer and co-creator Mark Gatiss has said that he wants elements of the turbulent relationship between Sherlock Holmes and his brother Mycroft to remain a mystery. Gatiss - who plays Mycroft in the BBC's adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories - explained that cuts were made to A Study in Pink before filming, as it was felt that the original version of the script 'gave away too much' about the brothers' unique dynamic. Speaking during a web chat organised by Sherlock's American broadcaster PBS, Gatiss said: '[It's] far better to leave things in everyone's imaginations. It's nice to give little hints here and there but never a full answer. Why are the Holmes brothers the way they are? What are their parents like? Maybe we'll see one day. We actually cut a bit from Pink which gave a bit too much away about the obvious frisson of animosity that exists between them. It's not there in the original stories. It comes entirely from Billy Wilder and Izzy Diamond's brilliant The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee's cold, disdainful Mycroft. If you haven't seen it - do!' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping merely adds 'seconded'! It really is a stunning movie and, probably, the closest previous take on the characters of Holmes, Watson and Mycroft to the way that Benny, Martin and Mark himself play them. Gatiss added that Mycroft 'clearly does care about his brother', explaining: 'All he wants to do is to bring him into the fold. To stop him being a loose cannon. I'd like to find a way of showing more than we have that he's actually even cleverer than Sherlock - but the deductions are hard enough as it is!' The actor also said that he is 'totally different' from his character. 'I wish I was half as clever, but I'm glad I'm not detached like him,' Gatiss said. '"The Ice Man" as Moriarty calls him. He and Sherlock have both clearly decided that they mustn't get involved with human relationships. They perceive them as weaknesses.'
Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and her husband, millionaire Old Etonian Charlie Brooks, are being charged with perverting the course of justice as part of the Scum of the World phone-hacking inquiry. Brooks is facing three charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice whilst her husband faces two. In a statement, they accused the CPS of 'posturing' and said: 'We deplore this weak and unjust decision.' The charges relate to alleged offences in July last year including concealing documents and computers from police. The couple will become the first suspects to be charged in an inquiry - Operating Weeting - which has, so far, lasted eighteen months. Brooks's PA, Cheryl Carter, her chauffeur, Paul Edwards, security staff member Daryl Jorsling and News International head of security Mark Hanna have also been charged with the same offence. Revealing the charges ahead of a CPS announcement, the couple said: 'We have this morning been informed by the Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions that we are to be charged with perverting the course of justice.' They added: 'After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS we will respond later today after our return from the police station.' Announcing the decision to charge the six, director of public prosecutions legal adviser Alison Levitt, QC, said she was making a statement 'in the interests of transparency and accountability.' She said prosecutors had applied the tests required and found that there was sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution was required in the public interest. 'May I remind all concerned that these six individuals now will be charged with criminal offences and that each has a right to a fair trial. It is very important that nothing is said, or reported, which could prejudice that trial. For these reasons it would be inappropriate for me to comment further,' Levitt concluded. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks was arrested on 13 March. According to the Daily Scum Mail, 'they were initially arrested after a bag containing a laptop, iPhone and paperwork was found in the bin in an underground car park near their £1.5 million home in London's exclusive Chelsea Harbour.' You can tell it's the Daily Scum Mail because, even in a story like this, they've managed to display their obsession with house prices. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike is charged, along with her husband, Carter, Hanna, Edwards and Jorsling and 'persons unknown' of conspiring to 'conceal material' from police between 6 and 19 July 2011. In a second charge, she is accused of conspiring to remove seven boxes of material from the News International archive between 6 and 9 July. And, in a third charge, Brooks, her husband, Hanna, Edwards and Jorsling are accused of conspiring to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from police officers between 15 and 19 July. A seventh, unnamed suspect, who also provided security for Brooks, will not be charged. All six will appear before Westminster magistrates court on a date to be determined. Whilst editor of the Scum of the World, Brooks, then Rekebah Wade, launched a 'naming and shaming' campaign identifying paedophiles following the murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne. The campaign boosted circulation and eventually led to new legislation - known as Sarah's Law - but was blamed by some for sparking vigilantism and even thwarting police investigations. It also, notoriously, was responsible for a paediatrician in Cardiff having her home attacked by ignorant numskulls who didn't know the difference between a paediatrician and a paedophile. Away from the day job, an intriguing private life saw well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks thrust briefly into the kind of limelight normally reserved for the subjects of a tabloid exclusive. While married to TV hard man Ross Kemp, she was arrested, but later released without charge, over claims that she had attacked him. She dismissed the incident as 'a row that got out of hand.' The couple divorced and in 2009 she married former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, a contemporary of David Cameron at Eton. The couple became key members of the influential so-called Chipping Norton set, which also includes Cameron and his wife Samantha, Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson (who, reportedly, introduced Brooks to her second husband), Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth and her PR guru husband Matthew Freud. The social links between the group, centred in the affluent and picturesque Oxfordshire Tory heartland, have been thrown into the spotlight since the phone-hacking scandal erupted. In March Cameron was forced to admit riding a retired police horse loaned to Brooks by Scotland Yard from 2008 to 2010, and his friendship with her was further laid bare at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards last week when she revealed how close she had been to the most powerful people in the country. She enjoyed dozens of lunches and dinners with successive prime ministers and was so friendly with Cameron that he signed off texts to her with 'lots of love', the inquiry heard. A formidable networker, Brooks also claimed to have been close to former prime minister Tony Blair and her wedding was attended by Cameron and then prime minister Gordon Brown. Her News Corporation career started at the Scum of the World, where she eventually landed the top job aged thirty one in 2000. In 2003 she became the first woman to edit the Sun and in 2009 became News International chief executive. The Daily Scum Mail's Tim Shipmqan tweeted: 'The Brooks announcement came fifteen minutes into this morning's Cabinet meeting. I wonder if the PM had the telly on?' Perverting the course of justice is, in case you didn't know, a common law offence which carries 'a maximum sentence of life imprisonment' for anyone convicted of doing it. In practice the sentencing range is huge because it usually comes down to the severity of the offence and the nature of the alleged cover-up. Allegedly destroying documents leads to a different sentence than intimidating a witness. In one recent case, a defendant was jailed for three years for concealing evidence in a fatal accident.

Separately, the Metropolitan police has arrested two suspects in relation to its Operation Elveden investigation into allegations of illegal payments to public officials. A man, aged fifty and a forty three-year-old woman were arrested at their home address in North West London early on Tuesday morning. The arrests followed material passed to the police by News Corporation's management and standards committee. Scotland Yard said in a statement: 'The fifty-year-old man is an employee of HM Revenue and Customs. He was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, contrary to common law and suspicion of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. A forty three-year-old woman was also arrested at the address on suspicion of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office and suspicion of money laundering offences under Section 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.' Both are being questioned at a London police station. Today's arrests are said to be the result of information provided to police by News Corporation's management standards committee. They relate to suspected payments to a public official and are not about seeking journalists to reveal confidential sources in relation to information that has been obtained legitimately. A total of twenty nine people have now been arrested since last July as part of Operation Elveden, which is linked to the Metropolitan Police's continuing phone-hacking investigation, Operation Weeting.

There was no 'express deal' between then Labour leader Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch in the run-up to the 1997 election, Alastair Campbell has claimed. Blair's former press secretary was asked at the Leveson Inquiry about the backing of Labour in 1997 by billionaire tyrant Murdoch's Sun newspaper. Asked if there was 'evidence' of a deal, Campbell said: 'Absolutely not.' He denied that Blair had 'struck a deal' with Murdoch when he flew to Hayman Island, in Australia, to address a News Corp conference before the 1997 election. 'The Sun backed us because they knew we were going to win. We did not win because they backed us.' Campbell said that he and Blair sometimes felt 'distaste' when dealing with News Corporation chairman billionaire tyrant Murdoch. Campbell, making his second appearance at the inquiry, said that it would have been 'lacking good sense' not to have 'developed a relationship' with Murdoch. 'I never was witness to, and I don't believe there was ever a discussion that said, "now, Tony, if you do this and do this and do this my papers will back you" - it just never happened,' he said. The government went through issues 'on their merits', he added. Citing issues including rises in the BBC's licence fee, Campbell added: 'There are lots of areas where you'd be hard-pressed to say the Murdochs were getting a good deal out of the Labour government.' The Sun's backing of New Labour ahead of the 1997 general election is thought by some commentators to have been key to the party's subsequent success. But Campbell said: 'There is the perceived power of newspapers to influence elections but I just don't buy it.' He added that this was a classic case of the logical fallacy of Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: 'The Sun backed us because we knew we were going to win, we didn't win because the Sun backed us.' Campbell was also asked about three phonecalls between Blair and Murdoch in the run-up to the Iraq War in March 2003. Campbell said that suggestions Blair could not have pursued his policy in Iraq without the backing of Murdoch and the Sun were 'complete nonsense.' Asked by Lord Justice Leveson how Blair had the time to take such calls when he was under so much pressure, Campbell replied: 'I wouldn't read too much into it, to be honestly frank.' Campbell has been recalled under module three of the Leveson Inquiry, covering the relationship between press and politicians. When he appeared in November during the inquiry's first module which was looking into the relationship between press and the public, he said some elements of the media had become 'frankly putrid.' But he insisted that most journalists were 'good people' with nothing to fear from press reform. Appearing on Monday morning at the inquiry, ex-cabinet secretary Lord Gus O'Donnell said that Andy Coulson should have declared News Corporation shares when he was the press chief to David Cameron. Coulson, an ex-Scum of the World editor, told the inquiry last week that he had only considered a possible 'conflict of interest' over the forty thousand smackers worth of shares after he quit his Downing Street role in January 2011. Asked if Coulson signed a disclosure form when he took up the post in May 2010, Lord O'Donnell said: 'A form was signed but it didn't disclose shareholdings and it should have done.' On Friday, meanwhile, the inquiry heard that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks - another former Scum of the World editor - was 'friends' with Blair and his wife, Cherie, as well as with Campbell and his partner, Fiona Millar. The latter claim leading to a whole raft of 'Crystal Tipps and Alastair' jokes of which this is, merely, the latest. Brooks said that, according to her former personal assistant's diary, she met or dined with Blair at least thirty times between 1998 and 2007, when he resigned as prime minister. Although, to be scrupulously fair that's only an average of four times a year. This blogger has casual acquaintances whom he meets or has lunch with that often. But, Brooks claimed that she did not exchange texts or e-mails with Blair because 'he did not have a mobile phone or in fact, I think, use a computer when he was prime minister.' Brooks quit as News International chief executive in July 2011 after the phone-hacking scandal led to the Scum of the World's closure.

Alastair Campbell was hired by Tony Blair in 1994 as his spin doctor. Blair told Campbell that he wanted someone who was strategic and who 'understood the press' but 'not particularly someone from the tabloids.' Campbell was previously political editor of the Daily Mirra. Campbell said that he believed he had to be 'pretty robust and not shy of engaging in difficult debate' with the press as it was developing at the time. He said there was a sense that Gordon Brown 'had his own team' which Campbell wanted to lead and that Peter Mandelson would also attempt to do Campbell's job. Robert Jay read from Blair's book A Journey, which said: 'Peter [Mandelson] would slip into the castle through a secret passageway and, by nimble footwork and sharp and incisive thrusts of the rapier, cleave his way through to the throne room. Meanwhile, Alastair would be a very large oak battering ram destroying the castle gates, and neither boiling pitch nor reinforced doors would keep him out.' Jay continued: "... He had great clanking balls as well.' Campbell said he was vetted to the DV level when he entered Downing Street. He could not recall whether he signed a specific confidentiality agreement in opposition. He was covered by the Official Secrets Act when in government. Campbell said it was always assumed that he would be involved in 'sensitive' areas that Blair had to deal with, citing NATO issues and Northern Ireland. The Sun, he said, was 'a significant player' and there was a sense of hierarchy of the importance of newspapers. Dealing with 'the Murdoch press', as Robert Jay QC put it, was 'part of the job' and Murdoch was the most powerful proprietor in Britain. Campbell said he 'felt a little uneasy at times' about dealing with the Sun, but that it was part of his job. His remark about feeling uneasy was in the context of the Sun asking for an article about Europe from a government minister, he said: 'We didn't change policy, but we knew what they wanted rhetoric-wise.' Campbell said one of his objectives was a 'neutralisation strategy' - or even to 'win over' the Sun newspaper - to counter Murdoch's influence to create 'a more level playing field' on which to communicate the Labour Party's ideas to the public. Campbell said an approach to the Daily Scum Mail around the same time was to 'stop them being quite so vile' - so, that didn't work, then - whereas the Sun was considered to be the only paper in an 'odd space' in which it could shift allegiances. Of course, it has been a Labour supporting newspaper during the majority of the 1970s, only shifting to the right in 1979. There was no point denying that Rupert Murdoch was 'the most significant figure' in the media landscape and there was no point not making an effort to engage with him, Campbell argued. Campbell said he was never in any doubt whether to fly Tony Blair for a Hayman island conference at which Rupert Murdoch attended in 1995. He said it was his idea to 'use that event as a broader public platform and set out for a huge number of editors and executives what New Labour was about.' Campbell contrasted Murdoch's hands-off attitude when he was at Today with Robert Maxwell, the former Mirra Group proprietor - and corrupt scoundrel - whom, he said, had a 'fairly interfering' approach at the Daily Mirra. Murdoch was 'certainly the most important media player, without a doubt,' argued Campbell, adding that Murdoch backed New Labour because it was going to win the election. In 1997, on the eve of the general election when the Sun switched to supporting Labour, was twelve per cent ahead in the polls, a position it had occupied, with only minor fluctuations, for four and a half years since Black Wednesday in September 1992. All indications in the spring on 1997 were that a Labour victory was inevitable and the landslide that it eventually achieved, high probable so it was in the interest of the Sun, a newspaper which prided itself on having backed the winner of every general election since 1974 to get into bed with Labour rather than the other way around. Particularly as the Sun had made such a big issue of its support of the Tories having, supposedly, been the deciding factor in the previous, 1992, general election - The Sun Wot Won It and all that. Campbell was asked whether a specific 'deal' had been made between Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair to support New Labour. 'I don't think there ever was such a deal,' he answered. Jay read out former Australian prime minister Paul Keating's reported advice to Blair on dealing with Murdoch: 'He's a big bad bastard, and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad bastard too. You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength.' Campbell repeated that no 'deal' was done, adding there are lots of areas of media policy where one would struggle to say the Murdochs got a good deal out of the Labour government. He said: 'I was never witness to a discussion where he [Rupert] said, "Tony, if you do this and this and this, we'll back you." It just never happened.' Jay asked Campbell about an 'implied trade-off' between Labour and Murdoch, as suggested by former special adviser Lance Price. Campbell denied Blair's thinking on cross-media ownership policies was influenced by Murdoch. Jay cited a half-page article the Sun offered Blair during the 1997 election that was headlined Why I love the pound, when Labour's policy was to, ultimately, join the Euro. Campbell admitted that he felt 'a little bit queasy' about the headline, but insisted that the article itself was merely repeating existing Labour policy on Europe. Campbell was asked about the row in 1998 over Tony Blair being accused of 'intervening' on behalf of Rupert Murdoch to help him buy the Italian TV firm, Mediaset. Campbell maintained that this was not an intervention, despite Murdoch saying in an interview that he had asked Blair to contact the Italian prime minister about the planned deal. Campbell said it became apparent there was 'a problem' with the press, but Blair took the view it was 'not politically sensible' to take them on. He said the cultural issues of the press have been ongoing for some time and both politics and the media 'have not faced up to that.' Jay asked if there is such an appetite now. 'No, if I'm being frank,' Campbell replied. He added that he believes David Cameron is 'reluctant' to take on this issue and that a recent speech by the vile and odious rascal Gove in which the lack of education secretary warned that the Leveson inquiry itself could have a 'chilling effect' on the press was part of a 'political strategy.' Campbell said it would very difficult for Cameron not to go along with the majority of the recommendations the Leveson inquiry produces, since he was the one who, in a blind panic, set it up in the first place but Campbell doesn't think there is much appetite for change within Cameron's party, in particular, and among politicians generally. There was no appetite within the Labour government for a public inquiry into the standards and ethics of the press, Campbell told the inquiry. He said it is not unreasonably for politicians to 'take account of political factors' when taking such decisions, including whether to wage war on the press. Campbell said when Tesssa Jowell took over as lack of culture secretary she made it clear to Blair and Campbell that she wanted to take the job without any 'pacts or deals' having been made on media policy. He said Blair gave her that assurance. Campbell said he was 'not too involved' in government discussions over media policy and the Communications Act 2003. He said he was 'much more engaged' with foreign policy at the time. Campbell was asked about Blair's three phone calls with Murdoch in the run-up to the Iraq invasion in March 2003. Leveson asked what Blair was attempting to achieve with the phone calls. Campbell explained that most non-Murdoch papers - particularly the Mirra and the Gruniad - were against the war and Blair would have 'appreciated the support' of Murdoch's titles. He said: 'I wouldn't overstate the significance of a couple of phone calls with Rupert Murdoch. Even at times like this he [Blair] would have spoken to all sorts of people. I wouldn't read too much into it, to be absolutely frank.' Campbell was asked about media proprietors using the back door of No 10 to avoid being seen. He said that billionaire tyrant Murdoch – who famously also used the back door to visit the Tories – was seen as 'uniquely neuralgic' and would spark a flurry of media interest if seen entering Downing Street. Campbell also complained that coverage of certain issues is always from a narrow perspective - such as industrial action stories focusing on disruption rather than the issues that caused the strike in the first place, and welfare stories focusing on 'scroungers' rather than the millions of people whose benefit is entirely deserved. The Daily Scum Mail's current campaign about Internet pornography might encourage politicians to look at the issue, but it wouldn't decide policy, Campbell said, as an example of what he meant about setting 'the terms of debate.' 'Politicians have done a bad job of standing up for themselves,' argued Campbell, which has meant that some elements of the media 'think they're above the law.' He cited the phone-hacking scandal as a classic example of this phenomenon. Campbell was asked about well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks. Campbell attended Brooks's first wedding, to TV hard man Ross Kemp, and her later marriage to millionaire Old Etonian horse trainer Charlie Brooks. 'We were friendly, very friendly, and I liked Rebekah, but I think "friendship" overstates it,' he said, adding that he was 'independently friendly' with her husband. Campbell said he always had a sense that Rupert Murdoch 'really liked Rebekah' and that she was 'a rising star' in the News Corp organisation. He added that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks 'overstated it' when she told the inquiry that Blair and his cabinet were 'a constant presence' in her life for a number of years. Jay asked if well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks 'amplified' the fractious relationship between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. Campbell said not, but that Brown's 'people' might have said things to her that they would not have said to Blair's people. Jay asked if Campbell ever fed stories to the Sun. 'Yeah, so were other papers,' he said. Every newspaper felt rivals were better treated by the Labour government than they were themselves, he added. Politicians have done a 'very bad job standing up for themselves' in explaining why they need to maintain frequent contact with the media, Campbell said. He added that there must be 'a proper reckoning' of power and status between media and politicians. Campbell did not believe that newspapers 'derive power' from their readers, as argued by the likes of the odious Paul Dacre, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and others. He said that, on the contrary, any newspaper can launch an effective campaign and argued that some of the small circulation titles are among the most influential. He added that national newspapers can set 'the terms' of debate, referring specifically again to the Daily Scum Mail's present campaign against online pornography, but that this will 'not regularly dictate a policy response.' Newspapers were given a sense of power under Margaret Thatcher, argued Campbell, but that changed under John Major. He admitted that New Labour may have given the media 'too much of a sense of their own power and we should have challenged that more.' Campbell did not believe that newspapers have any real power – 'politicians have real power' – and hoped that the Leveson inquiry will result in a recasting of where power really does lie. 'Newspapers can influence all of those debates,' he said, referring to current policy matters. 'I don't think that is real power.' Lord Justice Leveson said that newspapers have 'longevity', whereas politicians, by and large, do not. 'Rupert Murdoch has been there or thereabouts for forty years, which is a very very long time,' he added. Leveson asked if that gives Murdoch more influence. 'In Rupert Murdoch's case it would be,' agreed Campbell. He said that George Bush once asking him what Murdoch was like 'because he'd never met him, which I found rather surprising.' Campbell said his New Labour media strategy was at times 'too controlling' and that it 'did hang on to some of the techniques of opposition when we should have dumped them at the door of No 10.' He added: 'Was I robust? Yes. If a newspaper wrote something I wanted to refute would I do it? Yes. But this bullying thing is nonsense.' Campbell said he did have 'complete and utter contempt' for some reporters but never kicked them out of briefings. He added that he dealt with thousands of stories and handled thousands of press briefings and he would defend their honesty and integrity. Politicians should regain political power but 'not at the expense of a free press', he added. He said that politicians can use the Internet and social media to alter their relationship with the press and that many politicians are 'too concerned' with the way they are represented in the media, judging their success or failure on the press response. Campbell said he believes David Cameron and Nick Clegg are getting 'disproportionately whacked' by the media for setting up the Leveson inquiry in the first place. The press do negatively cover politicians for their stance on the media,Campbell claimed. 'Partly the coverage of Cameron at the moment is a revenge for having set this inquiry up.' Campbell said that politicians need to step back from day-to-day media work – such as commenting on news stories – because their job is to govern. Asked about the role of special advisers - specifically single 'rogue' ones - such as in the vile and odious rascal Hunt row, Campbell said that advisers 'even as senior as I' would not have done anything without specifically checking with their employer. They are 'a very personal appointment,' he added. Campbell was asked about a row over a story in the Scum Mail on Sunday about Blair's plans to meet the Queen Mother's coffin in April 2002. Campbell complained to the PCC, but his stance was undermined by a letter from the parliamentary usher Black Rod, Michael Willcocks. The PCC said that it 'could not adjudicate' on a matter of fact, and the press attacked Blair, saying the complaints body had 'not supported' the prime minister. Campbell repeatedly insisted the story was untrue, alleging that Black Rod himself later joined the PCC - which, as a matter of fact, he did. 'It's always good to have friends in the press,' noted Campbell which caused the normally laid back Brian Leveson to note: 'Come on Mr Campbell, don't overdo it!' The media want news twenty four hours a day and they look to politicians to provide it, argued Campbell, with regards to the suggestion that old policy announcements were sometimes repackaged and presented again as if they were new. 'That's not their [politicians'] job,' said Campbell, 'their job is to govern.' Jay asked Campbell about the rumours that he leaked the 2001 general election date to the Sun. He denied having leaked it to the Sun's Trevor Kavanagh, but said that he did speak to the Sun's former political editor 'almost every day' as it was the run-up to the election. Campbell added: 'I never told [journalists] lies but I sometimes didn't tell them everything that I knew.' There is a 'genuine public concern about what the press has become and about where fact ends and comment begins,' he said. The media should be able to take strong positions but an outside body should be able to highlight when journalists are combining fact and comment. A new regulatory framework, if set up correctly, will have a 'profound impact' on how the Internet develops, argued Campbell, who suggested that print journalism 'remains relevant' despite technological advances. But, things are changing: 'Guys from ITV and BBC and Sky aren't in here, they're outside. Why not? Because they want to tweet.' Campbell said a new press regulator will end up with a 'redefinition of what a journalist is' in relation to tweeting, blogging and broadcasting. 'The new PCC will have a big impact on the blogosphere,' he added. Not round here it won't, matey! On changing British media regulation, Campbell said: 'If nothing is done, we will be missing probably the only opportunity we'll have for a generation to get this right. The fundamental weakness of the PCC is that it's self regulatory,' he claimed. 'The regulation is run by the people its regulating without any parliamentary oversight of any kind.' There have been 'so many last chance saloons' for the PCC that the public would find it strange if the PCC remained in place but under a different name. Campbell concluded by saying he fears many politicians, including specifically Michael Gove, hope the Leveson inquiry 'will just go away.'

The vile and odious rascal Hunt, the lack of culture secretary, 'should have known' what his special adviser was doing when he gave News Corporation daily updates on the Government’s scrutiny of its bid for BSkyB, Britain's former top civil servant has said. Lord O'Donnell, who was Cabinet Secretary until the end of last year, suggested that the vile and odious rascal Hunt should have been 'clear' about what was expected of Adam Smith, the special - single 'rogue' - adviser who resigned last month after e-mails he sent to News Corp were disclosed by the Leveson Inquiry. The vile and odious rascal Hunt has been facing calls to resign over his handling of the BSkyB takeover bid since last month, when his special adviser, Smith, was forced to resign after one hundred and sixty three pages of e-mails submitted to the Leveson inquiry revealed his close contact with News Corp lobbyist Frédéric Michel. Asked by Lord Justice Leveson for his opinion on how the relationship between the vile and odious rascal Hunt and Smith 'should have worked', Lord O’Donnell said: 'It's clear in the special advisers' code [of conduct] that in terms of authorisation ministers should authorise their special advisers as to what they should do, for example with the media. I would have expected the minister to be clear as to what he thought the special adviser should have been doing.' He also suggested that 'all parties' should have been kept informed about the progress of the scrutiny of the News Corp bid for BSkyB. 'Talking about process is fine,' he said, 'but you should make sure that the same information is passed on to all parties in a case. So fairness is absolutely crucial to what happened.' The e-mails appeared to show that News Corp was given advance notice of major decisions in the regulatory process and that the vile and odious rascal Hunt had 'assured' News Corp that the bid would be successful well before the process had been completed. Lord O'Donnell was also asked about the appointment of Andy Coulson, the former editor of the Scum of the World, as the Downing Street communications chief in 2010. O'Donnell said that Coulson had signed a statement of his financial interests, but omitted to mention the fact that he owned shares in News Corp which had been part of his severance package. Last week Coulson told the Inquiry that he had failed to declare forty thousand smackers wroth of News Corp shares, which he acknowledged gave rise to a potential conflict of interest. Lord O'Donnell disclosed that Gordon Brown had asked him for his advice on starting an inquiry into media standards in March 2010, and he advised against it. Asked whether he had been unwilling to pick up a 'hot potato', the peer replied: 'I would say it was clearly a big potato. The timing was not ideal. If you are going to do this it would be good to have all-party agreement. Trying to broker such a thing in the weeks leading up to a general election would be quite difficult.' The controversy over the vile and odious rascal Hunt's dealings with billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's empire took a bizarre twist over the weekend after it emerged that he held a meeting with one of the mogul's former drivers to discuss his alleged role in illegal payments to police. Paul Maley, who worked as a News International chauffeur for four years until 2009, is preparing 'extraordinary' evidence for the Leveson Inquiry in which he is expected to reveal a forty-minute encounter with the lack of culture secretary. Mind you, this is all according to the Daily Scum Mail so, you know, vat of salt and all that. Maley alleges that he told the vile and odious rascal Hunt during the meeting last September that he handed 'more than a dozen packages' containing cash to police officers while working for the company. He also, allegedly, told the vile and odious rascal Hunt that his lawyers had 'a black book', which had been held by News international drivers and contained the names of the allegedly corrupt police officers. Allegedly. Maley said it was being kept under 'lock and key' in a secret location. Maley claimed in the meeting that since passing his information to the police he had become the target of 'a campaign of intimidation' designed to deter him from identifying the officers who took the payments – including threatening phone calls, damage to his car and even dog excrement being posted through his letterbox. The driver alleges that the vile and odious rascal Hunt 'fobbed him off' – claims which were strenuously denied by the Cabinet Minister his very vile and odious rascally self. Maley's evidence is being submitted by Collyer Bristow Solicitors, who have successfully represented a number of phone-hacking victims, including Lord Prescott, in their battle for compensation from News International. Meanwhile News Corp confirmed that Maley had worked as a driver but would not comment publicly on his claims. However, one alleged senior 'source' allegedly questioned Maley's 'credibility' and allegedly accused him of allegedly 'going around trying to hawk his story for months.'

Meanwhile, John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, has said that the vile and odious rascal Hunt should respond to questions from MPs about his dealings with News Corporation. Bercow was speaking in response to a complaint about the way in which the vile and odious rascal Hunt has ducked parliamentary questions about this on the grounds that he will address them when he gives evidence to the Leveson inquiry. Bercow has effectively ordered the vile and odious rascal Hunt to answer any and all questions tabled by MPs about his dealings with News Corporation. He was responding to Mad Hattie Harman, the Labour deputy leader and shadow lack of culture secretary, who asked Bercow whether it was acceptable for a minister to refuse to answer parliamentary questions on the grounds that he would be giving evidence in due course to an inquiry. The vile and odious rascal Hunt is currently refusing to answer questions about what he knew about the contacts between his special - single 'rogue' - adviser and News Corporation because, he says, he will address this in his evidence to Leveson. Bercow noted: 'As a matter of general principle, I should make it clear that the accountability of a minister to this House is not diluted or suspended by a minister's engagement with inquiries or other proceedings outside of this House. When parliamentary questions to ministers are tabled, those questions should receive substantive and timely answers.' This raises the possibility of an interesting clash between Leveson and parliament, because Lord Justice Leveson has said that witnesses to his inquiry should not reveal the contents of their witness statements to the public until they are published by the inquiry. Tory MP Edward Leigh also protested that parliament was 'playing second fiddle' to Leveson. 'When we have inquiries like Leveson, they are given everything. Surely the time has come to proclaim this truth, that this House is supreme and sovereign and we should get everything first?'

News International has hit back at suggestions that Murdoch suffered 'selective amnesia' regarding a lunch at Chequers with Margaret Thatcher to discuss his proposed purchase of The Times and The Sunday Times in 1981. In a strongly worded statement to the Leveson inquiry on Monday morning, Rhodri Davies QC, counsel for The Times and The Sunday Times publisher, claimed that billionaire tyrant Murdoch 'has nothing to lie about.' He said the idea that the deal happened 'because of a nod and a wink from Mrs Thatcher' over lunch was 'science fiction.' Davies said the papers would have been shut down by the owners, Thomson, had no buyer has stepped in because of problems with unions and there was no documentary evidence to back up suggestions made by the Leveson inquiry counsel, Robert Jay, that Thatcher had 'somehow made the deal happen.' It had been suggested that Thatcher's trade secretary, John Biffen, declined to refer Murdoch's proposed purchase to competition authorities because he had warned Thatcher that a referral would have scuppered the deal. 'That Mr Biffen paid no regard to the deadline imposed by Thomson, but instead declined to make a referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission because of a nod and a wink from Mrs Thatcher who was in turn acting on the basis of an unspoken request from Mr Murdoch. To call this thesis speculation is to use too dignified a term,' said Davies. He made the statement to counter the opening statement remarks made by Jay last week when he launched the third module of the inquiry, which is dealing with the relationship between politicians and the media. Davies said it was 'against the rules' of the inquiry to make remarks about a witness after he had given his testimony. He added that it was a 'desperate assertion' to say 'that Murdoch must be lying when he says that he does not remember anything about' the Chequers lunch. because, of course, it's a well known fact that no one at News International would ever dream about lying. About Anything. Well, maybe except phone-hacking, and single 'rogue' reporters. And what happened at Hillsborough. They're big on 'The Truth' at News International.

Mad Hattie Harman, meanwhile, has put out a statement criticising well-known hairdo Boris Johnson for calling for a Tory to be put in charge of the BBC. Which, just to note once again, would be illegal under current employment legislation. 'The importance of the BBC to Britain today is hard to overstate,' said Mad Hattie, who has often, in past, displayed her own forthright views on all manner of BBC affairs. 'It is so trusted because it reports politics impartially. The whole point of the Director General of the BBC is that they are neutral. But just as Boris Johnson thinks he can interfere with the police, he clearly thinks he can interfere with the BBC. Boris Johnson should keep out of it.' And, get a haircut as well. I'm just saying. 'Not since Michael Heseltine has there been a politician who is so adept at finding the G-spot of the Tory faithful as Boris Johnson,' says James Forsyth at Coffee House.

As if a humbling in the ratings battle with Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's Britain's Got Toilets over the last couple of week is not embarrassing enough for The Voice, some staff on working on the BBC1 talent show have been caught tuning in to its ITV rival to see who had won the final while they were supposed to be working. The Voice co-host Holly Willoughby, reports the Sun, caught producers watching the ITV show when she overheard BGT presenters Ant and Dec through her earpiece to the production gallery. An 'amazed' audience member heard Willoughby say: 'Gallery, I can't believe you've got that on up there!' This blogger is more amazed that Holly Willoughby can say anything other than what's written on an autocue for her.

He might be about as funny as a dose on testicle discomfort, but Alistair McGowan's new sketch show You Cannot Be Serious! will be broadcast in primetime on ITV next month, it has been confirmed. Harry Hill acts as an executive producer on the Saturday night format which will mix clips, sketches and impressions. Sounds ... exactly the same as everything else Alistair McGowan has ever done. Lousy. New England manager Roy Hodgson and ex-footballers-turned-pundits Robbie The Hairdo Savage and Gareth Boring Southgate are among the 'sports stars' McGowan will impersonate, as the programme coincides with Euro 2012. Soutgate shouldn't be hard. Just put a plank of wood in a chair that'll do. The Big Impression 'star' will also assume the characters of celebrities Jessie J, Peter Andre and Louie Spence. Yeah. This is sounding ... distinctly turgid and average. McGowan said: 'I've always had more feedback about my impressions of sport stars than anyone else and it's been brilliant to be working on a new generation of people we see on TV all the time. This show won't just be for the sports nuts though and I'm really looking forward to putting some surprising showbiz faces into the middle of it all too.' McGowan and Hill have previously worked together on BBC Radio 4 show When Harry Met Ally back in 1992. That wasn't funny either.

The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff is to open its doors to the public on Friday 20 July, it was announced this week. Tickets for the attraction will go on sale at 10am on Thursday 14 June. Originally based at the Olympia Two exhibition and event centre in West Kensington, it has been moved next to the Roath Lock drama studios at Porth Teigr, where Doctor Who is made. With the construction having finished, internal fitting can now take place, moving in props, sets, and memorabilia from the show. The interactive exhibition ran for a year in London, closing in February this year. It was originally planned to open in Cardiff this spring, but that date got pushed back and instead the Official Overpriced Doctor Who Convention was held in the Millennium Centre. The Cardiff incarnation of the Experience, which is in a three thousand square metre building, is scheduled to be in situ for five years. Up to a quarter of a million people are expected to pass through its doors every year.

BBC Scotland is to launch a semi-improvised, spoof cop show starring Jack Docherty in his first major TV comedy in more than a decade. Scot Squad is reportedly to be a multi-camera send-up of 'blue light' reality shows like Police, Camera, Action!, shot in rural and urban locations across Scotland. Doherty plays the head of Scotland's first unified police force in his first significant onscreen role since advertising sitcom The Creatives ended in 2000. The former Perrier nominee is best known for the classic Channel Four sketch show Absolutely, and for hosting Channel Five's early, five-nights-a-week chat show – which launched the talk-show career of his stand-in, Graham Norton. More recently, Jack has served as the producer of Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong's The Old Guys for BBC1, in which he had a guest role, and as a writer, co-scripting the 2008 BBC2 series The Cup, featuring Steve Edge, with fellow Absolutely colleague Moray Hunter. Produced by The Comedy Unit, which also makes Rab C Nesbitt, Limmy's Show, Burnistoun and Gary: Tank Commander, Scot Squad was devised by comedian Joe Hullait, who develops and nurtures new talent for the Glasgow-based company. Having written a bare outline for the plot, he invited the cast to workshop their characters without a script and create their own dialogue during shooting – in a similar way that Curb Your Enthusiasm is shot. Also starring in the pilot, which will be broadcast on BBC1 Scotland in the next month, are 2010 So You Think You're Funny winner James Kirk as a community support officer, and his colleague from sketch group How Do I Get Up There?, Chris Forbes, playing a countryside copper. Former Rab C Nesbitt and Legit actor Jordan Young patrols an urban beat, while ML Stone and Darren Connell appear as a phone operative and 'an habitual visitor to the police station' respectively. Gary: Tank Commander and Burnistoun's Iain Davidson directs. Docherty is also about to star in a new, self-penned Radio 4 sitcom. Stop/Start focuses on three couples in various stages of their relationships, who are able to suddenly stop the action, explain their actions to the audience, then resume the story. Recording takes place in London next week.

Rufus Hound has confirmed that he has left Celebrity Juice. The comedian has served as a regular panellist on Leigh Francis's ITV2 ... thing since 2009, but was mysteriously absent from later episodes of its most recent series, which concluded on 3 May. Now, it's a mystery no longer, it would seem. Speaking to the Digital Spy website at the tenth anniversary performance of We Will Rock You in London this week, Hound revealed that he is 'not on that show anymore' and a return to Celebrity Juice in the future is 'frankly unlikely.' So, the tin-tack then, basically, yes? Asked why he had decided not to come back, Hound would say only that he is currently 'very busy with other projects.' Instead of 'mind your own sodding business, you nosey bastards' as he probably should have said. He added: 'Celebrity Juice is 'The Keith Lemon Show' isn't it? So as long as Keith's there most people are getting everything they want from it. So onwards and upwards for them.' So, in other words, 'me and Leigh Francis had a falling out, all right?!' Allegedly.

Silk's Rupert Penry-Jones has declared that he could never become a lawyer in real life as he believes the profession to be 'boring.' The actor, who plays barrister Clive Reader, said that he had 'no qualms' about the BBC series spicing up courtroom action to keep viewers entertained. 'I don't think it's totally realistic,' he told journalists. 'I mean, when you sit in court and watch a case it's very different, God, if it was a TV show the way it really is we'd be asleep.' Asked if he would ever consider a career in law, the actor replied: 'Not in a million years. You have to work far too hard. It takes a long time for the money to be good! The first ten, twenty years it's not very good. Hopefully acting is the right path for me.' Penry-Jones went on to praise the work of Silk creator and writer Peter Moffat, but admitted that the balance between the characters' personal and professional lives needed to be worked out. "'There aren't that many people who can write law shows in an exciting, interesting way and this is exciting and interesting and a bit sexy,' he said. 'I think that's what Peter Moffat's managed to do with this show - it's not boring, and I think a lot of law stuff can be quite boring. It's balancing the courtroom drama with the out of court drama and getting that level right, which I think we're still looking at on this show, to be honest. We're getting there, though.'

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Europe-bound Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has been named LMA Manager of the Year, after guiding his side to fifth place in the Premier League. The award is voted by LMA members, including all managers from the four professional leagues in England. Newcastle, whom some supposedly 'informed' critics had expected to struggle this season, won nineteen of their thirty eight league games, recording fifteen clean sheets. Pardew was also named Barclays Premier League manager of the year at the ceremony in London on Monday. LMA chairman Howard Wilkinson said: 'Alan Pardew's achievements at Newcastle this season are there for all to see and it is just reward that he should be named as LMA Manager of the Year. I'm often asked, "where are all the English coaches?" My answer is "We have plenty of them, they just need an opportunity." I am delighted for Alan that he has taken his opportunity.'

Queen's Park Strangers' arch pysch nutter Joey Barton had been charged by the FA for two acts of alleged violent conduct at Manchester City on Sunday. No shit? What a surprise. He was sent off for violent conduct over an incident involving Carlos Tevez, of course, but now faces the two additional charges following clashes on his way off with both Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany. As Barton had already been dismissed both incidents fell outside of the jurisdiction of the referee. Barton has until 18:00 on Tuesday to respond to the charges. Which, presumably, he'll be doing on Twitter by offering the FA a fight in the car park. Then quoting The Smiths, the seems to be his standard reaction to most things. The red card was Barton's second of the season, meaning he will receive an automatic four-match ban. If found guilty of the FA's two violent conduct charges, that could turn into a very lengthy suspension indeed, with Barton facing at least three-match suspensions for each of the offences if found guilty. And since there were, approximately, one hundred million witnesses worldwide on TV to him kicking the haplass Aguero up in the air and then aiming to stick the nutt on Kompany, it's difficult to see how he could deny he done it. Despite this, Rangers chairman Tony Fernandes has refused to rule the midfielder out of playing for the Loftus Road club again but insists that time will be taken over any decision on the twenty nine-year-old's future. 'There are experienced people who will come back to me and we'll review the whole situation,' he told BBC Sport. 'There's a process that the club goes through in terms of sendings off and disciplinary action. That's something [manager] Mark Hughes will report through to the board. I'd rather not focus too much on that at the moment, because it's down to the club to do the investigations and get all of the information. We want to focus on the positive things. We'll wait and in due course our views will be known.' With regard to Barton's outrageous "Ah'll tek yi's aaaal on!" act, this blogger was somewhat minded of Nick Hancock's comment on Fantasy Football League on the weekend after Eric Cantona's infamous kung-fu dive into the crowd at Crystal Palace in 1995. 'It was disgraceful, it was appalling, it was terrible. And it was also, comfortably, the funniest thing I've ever seen!' Yep, pretty much.

Aston Villa have sacked manager Alex McLeish after eleven months in charge. The fifty three-year-old former Scotland manager, about as popular as a dose of the Black Death with most of the Villains notoriously fickle support, said his farewells to the club's staff on Monday morning. Villa have endured a very poor - although, very funny - Premier League campaign, finishing just above the relegation zone after winning only four of nineteen games at home. McLeish was an unpopular appointment as he arrived from rivals Birmingham City last year but poor results and performances worsened his relationship with fans. A club statement read: 'Aston Villa can confirm that Alex McLeish's contract has been terminated with immediate effect. The club has been disappointed with this season's results, performances and the general message these have sent to our fans. The board wishes to assure supporters that we are conscious in every sense that Villa expects and deserves more and we will strive to deliver this.' Villa chairman, Randy Lerner, said: 'We need to be clear and candid with ourselves and with supporters about what we have lacked in recent years. Compelling play and results that instill a sense of confidence that Villa is on the right track have been plainly absent. The most immediate action that we can take is to look carefully at our options in terms of bringing in a new manager who sees the club's potential and embraces our collective expectations.'

A crossword author has been questioned for planting hidden messages in the answers in Venezuela. English teacher Neptali Segovia voluntarily spoke to police about the matter, after TV presenter Miguel Perez Pirela pointed out that the crossword contained several hints towards an assassination plot. Wednesday's puzzle for the Ultimas Noticias contained the word 'asesinen', or kill, along with the name of president Hugo Chavez's brother 'Adan'. Below there was also the word 'rafagas', meaning either a gust of wind or a burst of gunfire. Segovia - who has written crosswords for the newspaper for seventeen years - dismissed the TV report as 'nonsense.' He said: 'I went because I'm the first one interested in having all this cleared up. I have nothing to hide.' President Hugo Chavez will run for re-election against state governor Henrique Capriles this October.

A thought for the day: The Young Musician of Year's top prize was two grand. BGT's dancing dog (and its owner) Gets four hundred and ninety eight thousand knicker more. Something sort of wrong here, yes? Just think how many more votes they would've got if dogs had opposing thumbs.

For yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, this one's for Liam and Noel, both obviously on a considerable high after yer actual Sheikh Yer Man City's championship victory but still, apparently, not speaking to each other. Use Joey Barton as an intermediary, lads, that'll work. This incidentally, was the Maine Road gig yer actual Keith Telly Topping was at with our Graeme and his mates Jamie and Michael. I was the 'responsible adult', apparently. No, really, I laughed as well.
The full gig can be seen here, and hot stuff it is too. One thing to note here: Noel shouting 'never going down' at the start. Man City had, in fact, lost 1-0 at Aston Villa that afternoon and were relegated to what was then Division One the following week after drawing at home to Liverpool. How times they do change! Not so much as case of 'where were you when you were shit?' more 'where were you while we were getting high?!'

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