Belfast Telegraph

Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and a strange outbreak of mass amnesia

By Matthew Norman

Amnesia has many potential causes, and some are more obvious than others. In the 1945 noir classic The Lost Weekend, for example, alcoholism robs Ray Milland of recall, but with the 2010 remake shot at Dorneywood, the memory loss is harder to explain.

All we know is that Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks had a pyjama party at the Chancellor's retreat, and this knowledge gap leaves wiggle room for gossip that the BSkyB bid may have been discussed.

Preposterous. You might just as credibly surmise that when Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met at Yalta, in the year The Lost Weekend was released, they discussed military matters and the post-war construction of Europe; when in fact, as all decent historians concur, their chat was confined to baseball, borscht recipes, and the musical oeuvre of George Formby. However, since there seems no way of silencing all the silly speculation, I ask this question: was James Murdoch also a cast member of The Lost Weekend 2: This Time It's Catching? James remembers a visit to Dorneywood late in 2010, though naturally not the precise date.

If it was the same weekend as his chief executive and his placeman in No 10, it would hardly cement any growing suspicion that Mr Osborne was the BSkyB organ grinder to Jeremy Hunt's errand boy monkey, but it would be nice to know for the record.

Yet all that is by the by. The central point is this personal plea. Chancellor, for God's sake have someone check the Dorneywood gas fires for a leak. Something must have caused this outbreak of mass amnesia, and potentially fatal carbon monoxide poisoning should be investigated without delay.

Nadine's self-belief

Passing mention of a wartime leader brings us to our most beloved Tory backbencher, Nadine Dorries, who despite reportedly being bullied by Mr Osborne's playground thugs, seems unriven by self-doubt.

"People used to talk about him in the corridors and laugh about him," Nadine tells the FT, while carefully avoiding a direct comparison with Winston Churchill.

"He was ridiculed. . . he was a lone voice in the House of Commons."

Publishers interested in my biography, Nadine: The Wilderness Years, may begin the bidding war forthwith.

Heights of novelty

I hate to be the buzz kill, but if you thought the dancing dog raised the talent show-winning bar to an unscalable height of novelty, what were you thinking?

On the night Ashleigh and Pudsey won our version, self-styled "magic mentalist" Christian Gog took Romania's Got Talent after strapping himself to a heart monitor and reducing his pulse rate to zero (or "death" as we doctors call the condition). Simon Cowell, raise your game.

James to be rattled by Alan Sugar...

Returning to James Murdoch, a resolutely undenied rumour says this. In a bid to relaunch his corporate career from a level better suited to his competence, James has applied for The Apprentice 2013.

The old business relationship between his father and Alan Sugar (satellite dishes) apparently concerns the production company, but this is cobblers. If there's one thing to which the Murdoch brand is invulnerable, it's the charge of nepotism. We wish James, right, luck, but must note that William Hill gives an ante post quote of 11-4 against him being fired in week two, after childcare duties prevent him reading an email warning that his masterplan to sell babies' rattles coated with depleted uranium might run into health and safety issues.

Meanwhile, with sales of The Sun on Sunday declining sharply by the week, I reprise this SOS for members of that young title's disloyal army of ex-readers who missed yesterday's page 2 announcement.

The Fabulous Travel Hairdryer, as offered free of charge via coupons in previous editions, has been recalled on the absurdly alarmist grounds that "there is a risk of personal injury and even electrocution". Fabulous is the old News of the World magazine, you will recall (though not if you happen to be Rebekah, Andy, James M or George Osborne), now incorporated into The Sun. Contagion? What contagion?

Belfast Telegraph


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