Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Malcolm Miscellany

The bees in Malcolm's hive (or the bats in his belfrey, whichever way you like) seem as buzzy as ever.

He intended to pronounce on the topic of how badly British cartoonists represent women politicians, especially those in our Labour Government—but Jackie Ashley's piece in Monday's Guardian comes close to Malcolm's own conclusions, and did it far better. All that Malcolm would append is his view that gender-in-British-politics is still suffering from PMT (post-Margaret Thatcher). No (male, for that is what they inevitably are) cartoonist seems successfully to caricature female political figures. Even Steve Bell, the Hogarth de nos jours, recognises that his Thatcher was "A largely fictional and frankly psychotic swivel-eyed heroine". For Malcom the moment that truly skewered her, her overweening vanity and her overblown pretentions, was the Sunday Times Magazine depicting her as Joan of Arc: indeed, she seemed subsequently intent on living the image.

Then it seemed that Malcolm would continue on the ITV-Murdoch-Branson shenangigans—but Grade's moonlight flit, even if it is for a million-a-year all-up, is a gobsmacker. Whoever schemed it (and Malcolm would love to believe just that) deserves mega-kudos. The Sky-mob had already gone very quiet over the last week, once the dust began to settle. This surely was a sign of weakness. From the beginning Malcolm sensed insecurity in the corridors of News Corp:
BSkyB said that because its stake was below this threshold, it was entitled to invest.

"Sir Richard seems to believe that he and his partners in NTL-Telewest have a unique right to acquire ITV," a company statement said.

That's from the BBC news-site, but the same quote, attributed to an anonymous BSkyB source, appeared widely elsewhere. That sounded a bit defensive to Malcolm, and his reaction was: well, as a matter of Stock Market and competition rules, old cobber, Branson and co. do have that right, but not uniquely. BSkyB doesn't.

It was interesting, too, to see how the papers had treated the developing story of the Sky twilight smash-and-grab. At first, there was been more than a twinge of admiration: words like "audacious" appeared. Quickly the gloom set in. When the Stock Market no-noed it, the general mood approached despair: even a terse summary from Reuters was full of negatives:
Shares in ITV fell as much as 7.2 percent in early Monday trade as hopes of a bid for the country's biggest commercial broadcaster faded after Friday's swoop by pay-TV group BSkyB to take a blocking stake.
Nor does BSkyB seem wholly confident about its coup. Originally, Murdoch-the-younger was promising to be a "supportive" of ITV, and helpful in establishing a new Chief Executive for the company. These declarations rightly pass most of the commentators by, like the idle wind, which they respect not. BSkyB was anxious to point out that lawyers had cleared the strategy.
BSkyB's next statement seemed not quite so rotund, even a bit of a whimper:
A BSkyB spokesman said: “We are fully compliant with both the spirit and the letter of the law.”
If there was one individual who could stymie the Murdochs, it would be Grade. Five years ago, a coup of this magnitude would somewhere have involved the fine Italian hand of one A. Campbell. It couldn't be, could it?

Malcolm even wanted to celebrate the career of Richard Clements, whose editing of Tribune through two decades was formative in Malcolm's political development—but the Times deservedly gave Clements a full-page obituary today.

In all this, though, Malcolm had chance to reflect on the curiously-close world of British journos and politicos. Ashley's partner is Andrew Marr; Clements' widow is Ramsay Mac's grand-daughter. By the same token, Malcolm knows of a blood-line which links Young Ireland and the Dockers' Tanner. And there are numerous other examples.

After all these amimadversions, we had to check Malcolm's desire to widdle and witter on. Come down to earth, Malcolm, we begged. And then he fixed us with a baleful eye: "Want to buy some Polonium 210? Going cheap."

Now this is not a light matter in our 'burb. So we pressed Malcolm further. We then heard how the Web was filled with news of how to acquire the stuff: $69 a shot, for US delivery only. This apparently had even got a mensh on Drudge, until a wiser mind decided to pull it; but the original of this canard seems to be a radioactive equivalent of 800 Cannery Row.

Finally, as we finally sedated him, Malcolm was wondering if any other London suburb is so attached to murder as is Muswell Hill.... Sphere: Related Content

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