Thursday, January 20, 2005

Political Diarists - turning the tables

Was quite surprised by the diary response to my question on services for older people who misuse alcohol. It was actually a very serious question but I will admit that there was an element of comic potential.
I am aware that it was commented on by four diarists - who are supposed to amuse and entertain - and the different ways they dealt with the subject were very typical of their differing styles.
Andrew Gimson (Telegraph) strung some thoughts together in a coherent way (as usually does Simon Carr of the Indy who didn't comment). Simon Hoggart (Guardian) let his imagination run riot, Ann Treneman (Times) made snide comments without actually managing to be funny and Quentin Letts produced - well, his usual obnoxious style of piece (but he does sometimes make me laugh against my better judgement).

So, I shall probably live to regret this but as a piece of therapy before I head for home I thought I would write a piece about the diary columnists - treating some of them in the way they like to treat us. So for a bit of fun let us imagine that they are on the floor of the House and the politicians have been tasked with writing the diary pieces for the next day. ........

A load of heels?

MPs may be rowdy in the chamber but they have nothing on the lads and lassies from the Press Gallery. Mr Speaker was struggling to keep order. "Ordure, Ordure" I thought I heard him say but this was only the cue for Letts (Daily Mail) to bounce to his feet. Well, Michael White has previously agreed with the Speaker's description and we don't think he is alone. Letts bounced to his feet with such enthusiasm that he is probably the only person ever to have outbounced John Bercow. He clearly can't decide whether he wants to stick with politics or head permanently for the glamour of Theatreland but he was relishing his moment in the spotlight and stuck to his favourite subject of women. But it is not clear that he actually likes them because he was begging the Minister to do something to regulate the height of stiletto heels. If Mr Letts has ever worn stilettoes he would realise that they make a girl's legs look better and longer so perhaps he should consider trying them for himself.

Hoggart (Guardian) was up on his feet like a shot. There is no love lost between these two and it was clearly biros at dawn. Hoggart does not need to wear high heels but his reactions were stiletto sharp on this occasion as he accused the Member for the Mail of wanting to make thigh length boots a compulsory part of the police uniform - for men and women. Heaven knows where this thought came from but the thought processes of the member for Guardianland are known for their random linkages and flights of fancy. I do hope he donates his brain to science.

"Order Order" The Speaker now had a grip on the usual vocabulary and called Ann Treneman (Times) to speak. This is a lady who is above this sort of thing. She works for the paper which still likes to think of itself as the "Top People's Paper" and clearly regards herself as a cut above the rest of 'em. A journalist version of "Top Totty". Rearranging one of her many scarves she lowered her eyelashes and breathily asked the Minister if he would "Reduce VAT on Jimmy Choo's?" What she was referring to was by no means clear but my richer friends tell me that they are a posh brand of shoe so presumably Times readers will have identified with her even if her colleagues couldn't.

It was left to Gimson (Telegraph) to restore some semblance of normality to the occasion by suggesting that all of this was irrelevant and they should really be discussing the obscene rise in the price of shoe leather since "this terrible Labour Government came to power" and, just as we all thought we were going to move on, up stood that clever Simon Carr (ind), who is that rare thing, a diary journalist who does not stoop to the personal. On this occasion he didn't need to as he calmly reminded his more excitable colleagues that this was health questions and they should have been asking questions about ACHOOS, the new Government body dealing with the unprecedented rise in the common cold since Labour came to power.

He should curb his ambition. He should not have pointed out the error in the shoes question because no one likes a clever clogs.

As a PS I just want to say that I hold out my hat to those who have to produce a diary piece every day. It is not an easy thing to do!!