Belfast Telegraph

At least Black brings some colour to our TV screens

By Grace Dent

Newsnight, Boulton -amp; Co, Have I Got News For You; this week is shaping up to be quite the media carousel for convicted multi-million-pound fraudster Conrad Black. Or, more namely, Baron Black of Crossharbour, PC, Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

I'm unsure if Conrad uses his full Game of Thrones-style title when making restaurant bookings. Or if Conrad and his fragrant wife, Barbara, even reserve tables at all, so certain are they of their place at society's high table.

Love or loathe Black, his appearances this week show he's a tricksy, Teflon-coated character. In a Wes Anderson film, he'd be played by Bill Murray and his square-ups with news-show hosts would give us great glee.

"I'm here selling books - not to answer your somewhat predictable questions," he quacked at Adam Boulton. Well, Black knew it was Boulton by the end of the interview - he asked to be reminded of Boulton's name mid-chat. I defy anyone not to find that slightly delicious.

"Not a flicker of contrition from him," I've heard people squeak.

Black's line on his conviction, in layman's terms, is: "I didn't bloody do it, end of, and you're a numbskull and a savage for believing any judge, juror or expert who says I did."

Not offering up so much as a teeny-weeny lickle fingertip of remorse for his wrongdoings is exactly the sort of chutzpah that people of Black's social standing respect. I'm certainly not of Black's social standing, but even I prefer brazen badness to crocodile tears.

Black's appearance on tomorrow night's Have I Got News For You is much anticipated as his great showdown. People forget Black's just spent three years in a Miami jail locked up with child sex-offenders. I imagine a light buffet supper then a game of fill in the heading blanks with Ian Hislop might not scare him.

My advice to Black - having appeared on the show twice and, ahem, won twice (not that I like to blow my own trumpet) - is to spend from now to then reading the newspapers.

The show records for more than two hours, a tiny bit is 'banter' and the rest is news. If you can't tell George Entwistle from George Osborne, it will be a slog.

Second, get into make-up early, because Have I Got News For You has the best make-up ladies in the business. By 9pm, you could look like Ryan Gosling.

If you're going to be a crook, be a good-looking one, too. Everyday folks don't understand your crime, anyway.

Black's run-in with Paxman was probably his best TV appearance since the CCTV footage of him removing evidence from his office.

"I am not trumpeting myself as a virtuous person," said Black, before whitewashing all nefarious claims against himself, saying Paxman's questions made him sick. Again, bedazzling to watch, but offering up some problems to his detractors.

Black's views on Paxman - namely wanting to thump him - are hardly unique.

"You're just a priggish, gullible British fool!" he shouted, before hinting that he'll reclaim his place in the House of Lords.


From Belfast Telegraph