Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

It is to Lady Morgan, the Prime Minister's political secretary, that the role of co-ordinating New Labour's proposed system of 'kangaroo courts' (or 'show trials', depending on whom you believe) for lapses in party discipline appears to fall. How does Sally Morgan herself fare when we consider the matter of party discipline? In the 2002-3 parliamentary year she cast 38 votes in the Lords out of 226 possible. In 2001-2 she favoured Lady Democracy with 62 votes out of 172. . . That's around one vote in every four, overall.

Newspapers can't, as we all know, be strictly answerable for the accuracy of claims made by their advertisers. Still less can they be expected to police the willingness of greedy and silly readers to buy into get-rich-quick schemes, miracle slimming cures, horoscopes and the other practices on the credulous by which the unscrupulous get rich. However. The Daily Mirror might, I feel, have done itself and its readers a favour by declining to run the full-page advertisement from the 'International Parapsychology Centre' that appeared the other day and invited participation ('completely free') in an 'International Research Project' which claims to have isolated five factors 'that have no connection to chance' governing lottery wins, and aims to help participants 'win £250,000 within two months'. You just fill in some personal details on a form and send it to an address in the Netherlands. In small writing: The International Parapsychology Centre may elect to permit specially screened promotions to be mailed to you. Tick the following box if you do not wish to receive life-enhancing and money-saving promotions.'

Least likely of celebrity alliances is surely that between Morrissey, lead singer of the 1980s pop band The Smiths, and the bashful Northern playwright Alan Bennett. Nevertheless, recalls Andrew O'Hagan of the London Review of Books, 'I remember Alan Bennett phoning . . . in 1992 to ask if any of us knew about this singer called Morrissey, who'd just been round to his house and dropped a CD through the letterbox with a note suggesting tea. We told him Morrissey was just the bee's knees. "Oh," said Bennett. "Is that right?" And when they finally got the teapot out Morrissey wanted to spend the afternoon talking about the forgotten British comedian Jimmy Clitheroe and a host of old Baling actresses whom Bennett had barely heard of'. So it goes. Morrissey subsequently let it be known that 'he could retire happy because he'd had tea with Alan Bennett'.

If ever wagepayer was prepared to look askance at his or her accountant, it is now. An important survey conducted in advance of World Book Day appears to have discovered that accountants spend more time reading for pleasure - an average of five and a quarter hours a week - than members of any other profession, even taxi-drivers. The question unaddressed in the survey, however, is: are those billable hours? Lawyers, according to the survey, spend as much time reading on the toilet as chefs and accountants put together.

Just like its two or three other viewers, I find myself unceasingly absorbed in Channel Five's meta-reality reality gameshow, Back To Reality. This week it came up with the goods yet again. Guest star Kerry McFadden, the recent winner, as all Spectator readers will know, of I'm A Celebrity . . …

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