If lack of sleep leads to arguments at work, my colleagues better watch out…

“Sleep loss ‘starts arguments at work’,” according to a story on the BBC website. If that’s true, my colleagues better watch out for me today. After the night I’ve just had, heads could be bitten off; or they could if I went in for such behaviour.

A study – and isn’t there always a new one of those along to keep you awake at night – postulates that erratic and disruptive behaviour at work can be caused “by even a single night’s loss of sleep”.

Now to some of us a single night’s loss of sleep would be a wonderful thing. Just image the bliss of losing sleep for a single night. The truly dedicated sleep dodger puts in years of sheet-wrangling and switching lights on and off, along with reading at all hours and making herbal tea, which is to say not proper tea, at 2am – never mind one night without sufficient shut-eye

Frankly someone who can’t hack work after that must be a yawning wimp. Anyway, this study says that lack of sleep leads to tired workers (a finding in line with a meteorological study concluding that rain leads to wet pavements) and can also cause “unwanted” activity linked to lower levels of self-control. In other words, you’re more likely to go off on one at work if you’ve slept badly.

Now this study is published by the Rotterdam School of Management – not the Rotterdam School of Sleeplessness or the Rotterdam Insomnia Institute (neither of which exists, as far as I know: I was going to check but had a yawn instead). Unsurprisingly, the study maintains that sleep-related disruption can cost billions in lost productivity.

Oh, I see – never mind the poor sufferer of shattered sleep, it’s the lost billions we should worry about. Next time I shall try counting bouncing billions instead of muddy-arsed sheep; not that I have ever found counting things, woolly ruminants or otherwise, to be much help.

Also of little use have been assorted herbal remedies and either drinking or not drinking coffee after a certain time in the day.

Maybe not sleeping, or sleeping badly, is just one of those things from which some people suffer. I have written about this before and it’s all a bit of a bore, but I return because so many people suffer in this way. In the small hours you can feel lonely being awake when you should be asleep, but in fact you are part of a community of red-eyed refugees from a land called sleep. You may be alone in the spare bed or on the sofa, but you are not alone in a wider sense.

This Rotterdam study suggests that poor behaviour in the workplace “often stems from selfish impulses that are not kept in check by self-control”, says research Laura Giurge. This could, she says, be anything from being rude to someone in the office to an increased likelihood of workplace theft. Her study also suggests that lack of sleep can reduce people’s sense of self-control and male them behave in a way they would not do normally, and that this can lead into “a possibly destructive cycle”.

Here are a few thoughts from the top of my headache. Personal anecdotage suggests that I stay calm at work even after not much sleep, whereas a former colleague used to be the one who sometimes ranted and bit off heads; mind you, he didn’t get much sleep either, through being too busy, or that was his excuse anyway.

If this study is true, then we should worry for the world; not for lost billions that have probably never been lost anyway, but because our political leaders often have little time for good sleep, and could well be leading us to whatever precipice awaits after suffering from a string of bad nights. That Theresa May doesn’t look like she gets much kip.

And to close, here’s how last night went: read on and off up in our attic bedroom; went down at 1am to read in spare bedroom number two, hoping not to disturb our Airbnb guest in spare bedroom number one. Read for a while, fell asleep only to wake up at 4am needing a wee; had to read again for a while, before falling asleep, this time to be woken by the alarm at 6.45am to get up and make breakfast. Upstairs in the bed where I should have been sleeping, my wife had been awake since 5am.


Climate changes, Trump doesn’t…

DAVID Cameron is telling people that he was right to hold the EU referendum, but that man always did think he was breezily right about everything (best Brexit quote around, the historian Anthony Barnett: “Brexit is government of the old, by the old, for the old.”)

But let’s not today go down that dismal corridor with its closed doors and closed minds. All that xenophobic chanting can bring a person down.

Pausing only to look at those photographs in this morning’s newspapers of Nigel Farage in his Union Flag socks while holding a pint and displaying a grin last seen on a sickly shark – breakfast might have to wait after that – let’s instead turn to another man who, like Cameron, believes he is right about everything.

Of all the alarming things about Donald Trump, and what a long list that is, longer than that ridiculous wall he wants to build, his refusal to believe in climate change is surely the most alarming.

Trump was shown surrounded by cheering coalminers as he signed a sweeping executive order that promises to dismantle steps taken by the Obama administration to cut emissions under the Paris agreement of 2015. The US had agreed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2025.

Trump has long disparaged the science surrounding global warming, insisting that it’s a con got up by the Chinese to harm the US – a claim as extravagant as the golden trappings in the lobby of his famous tower.

Here, garnered from my morning skim of the headlines, are some thoughts (apart from the one about Trump having a cheese-burger for a brain: I discovered that one all by myself).

The Chinese state media has laid into Trump’s plans, with a state-run tabloid saying that: “No matter how hard Beijing tries, it won’t be able to on all the responsibilities that Washington refuses to take.”

A highly critical leader in the Global Times says: “Western opinion should continue to pressure the Trump administration on climate change. Washington’s political selfishness must be discouraged. China will remain the world’s biggest developing country for a long time. How can it be expected to sacrifice its own development space for those developed western powerhouses?”

China may burn more coal than any other country, but it was prepared to follow the American lead – a precarious act of mutual dependency that could be unbalanced by Trump’s climate thuggery.

In the US, many of the more than 300 companies which backed Obama’s climate efforts are lining up to say that Trump is wrong to roll back efforts on climate change.

On the BBC website, you will find an interesting backgrounder on this latest spurt of Trumpery. BBC environment correspondent Matt McGrath raises an important point: undoing Obama’s Clean Power Plan will not be straightforward, and could end up as a job-creation scheme for lawyers as the Trump administration is dragged through the courts.

Also, Matt McGrath points out that in 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide was a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Two years later, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that CO2 and other gases were contributing to climate change which was a threat to public health and the welfare of current and future generations.

In other words, the existence of climate change, as wilfully disparaged by Trump, is written into US law. Something called an “endangerment finding” compels the federal government to regulate emissions. So that might just scupper Trump’s stupid plans.

The dice tumble as Mrs Maybe takes a Brexit punt…

BREXIT is the biggest crap game Britain has seen; and what a crap game it’s been so far.

That sound you can hear this morning, as Theresa May puts down her pen, is the clatter of falling dice. They are bouncing on country cobbles and on urban Tarmac; they are hitting Westminster and Winchester; they are raining down on the disaffected Scots and the squabbling folk of Northern Ireland; those falling dice are rolling everywhere, from the Lake District to the White Cliffs of Dover (just watch them tumble into the sea).

Is the triggering of Article 50 today the first step towards freedom or do we prefer the view of last Sunday’s Observer: “Hard Brexit is an epic act of self-harm – only reinforcing rancour and division”?

This is a time of monumental uncertainty as Britain takes the biggest gamble in modern political history. Some – what you might call the “reverse Empire fantasists” – believe Britain will forge ahead (by returning to a past that never was) to a bright new future (that may never be), and that Brexit will “make Britain great again” as a woman from Sunderland said on the BBC Today programme just a moment again, borrowing that tawdry slogan from a trampled-on Donald Trump banner.

Others – the Remains and the Remoaners – fear that Theresa May is rushing towards a Hard Brexit for which she has no mandate, and that instead of using the referendum result to reform our relationship with the EU, she has been pushed by her own right-wing, and by the bellowing chorus from the Daily Mail and others, to jump into the misty unknown.

I am with the worrying Remainers on that score, but we are where we are. And here’s where we are: shuffling in a queue towards a precipice, led there by what the Observer calls “the most irresponsible, least trustworthy government in living memory”. That sounds about right to this observer too, but others proclaim this as ‘Freedom Day’.

The graphic artists have been working hard on this morning’s newspapers, and top marks to whoever came up with the Guardian’s image of a jigsaw puzzle of Europe in which Britain has been removed and put to one side; in the space left sits the headline: “Brexit: Today Britain steps into the unknown.”

In similar vein, the i-newspaper goes for a satellite picture of Europe, with a pair of scissors snipping round Britain.

The Sun, oddly, represents this day with a photograph of those White Cliffs on to which the words “Dover and out” have been superimposed as a message to Europe. On the front of the Daily Telegraph, Mrs Maybe is shown with her pen above the headline “Unite behind Brexit, says May” and next to a robust quote: “It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country.”

Mrs May is good at coming up with stirring words that in the end count for nothing. When she was elected – sorry, my mistake; when she mugged her way into Downing Street – she spoke of uniting the country, and instead she is doing the exact opposite. I think that by ‘uniting’ what she means is for everyone to shut up and do as she says. Or as the Daily Mail tells her she should say.

There is a theory banded about that Mrs Maybe lives in fear of the Daily Mail, and look where that extreme caution got her yesterday, on the front page of that newspaper having her legs compared to Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish pins.

This morning the never knowingly repentant Mail runs the same picture again, only this time the legs have been covered up by a red splash bearing the words: “Censored by the left.” I do think that whoever started another one of those petitions over this was foolishly playing into the Mail’s hands, and encouraging the paper to tick its critics off by having columnist Sarah Vine say: “Oh, DO get a life” next to the picture. I haven’t read what Vine says inside because the life I do have is too short.

The ‘left’ in this context seems to be a sort of angry amorphous cloud, or a convenient grouping to make the Mail feel even smugger than usual. I suspect people were just disappointed to see something so pathetic on the front of a newspaper. You don’t have to be left-wing to think that reducing female politicians to the shapeliness of their legs is just too dismal for words.

But we shouldn’t give into Daily Mail Stress Disorder, as it’s a complaint which only wastes energy and sometimes makes the sufferer appear foolish. And I say this as someone who has suffered a few nasty Paul Dacre rashes in my time, but in the end, it’s only a newspaper. Sadly, puzzlingly, a very popular one, but that’s life for you. Other newspapers are available, a thought to remember as those Brexit dice start rolling for this two-year quickie divorce from Europe that could still descend into a decade long row from hell.

The Trip takes a trip too far for this viewer…

CLIVE James reckons that Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are “the funniest couple since Laurel and Hardy”. He’s not wrong.

Their pairing in The Trip is a delightful turn. It is, you must admit, an unlikely formula for success. Two comedians bicker, do impersonations and eat in restaurants while pretending to be critics. Sometimes they discuss the state of modern masculinity. Coogan and Brydon play exaggerated versions of themselves, bad-tempered flesh-and blood cartoons if you like. And the food looks lovely.

The Trip is one of my favourite programmes. When I saw that this pair were being interviewed in the Observer Food Monthly – another thing to treasure – all my Sundays had crashed into each other. And then I read the fourth paragraph. After that the feature was thrown aside.

This reaction was not the fault of the writer, Laura Barton. She does a nice job for those first few paragraphs. What did it was when she wrote that The Trip – as nurtured by BBC2 – was jumping channels to Sky Atlantic. Oh God – don’t you just hate it when that happens? This programme poaching has been going on for ages, ever since Sky pinched 24 and Madmen, but it still irritates. As Brydon says at the point when I cast the feature aside – “That’s Bake Off, The Voice, The Trip…”

Apparently, the decision was taken by Michael Winterbottom, the film director who creates The Trip, and the stars confessed to being puzzled by the move. Them and me, too. Well done to Winterbottom for providing further evidence that modern life is rubbish sometimes. There is little point complaining because modern life just goes on being rubbish and you put yourself in a bad mood. Never have yet watched those final two series of Madmen.

Clive James wrote about The Trip in his column at the back of Weekend in the Guardian. Reports Of My Death is one the best reads around as James just writes so well, even as he lies dying. He’s been lying there dying for a while now, ever since he wrote a poem a few years ago about how he would never again see the blossom on a favourite tree.

His body is in a poor way, but his mind still sparkles. You could say that James invented the art of TV criticism in newspapers with the column he wrote for the Observer. The other day I told my magazine students that they should read his column in Weekend, but whether they did or not is another matter.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Clive James TV column – a brilliant piece of work always – is said to have added up to 10,000 copies a week to sales of the Observer. That’s remarkable. Then again, I have it on good authority that my long-running Thursday column at the Press added up to ten extra copies a week.

We’re going on a Brexit hunt…

WHAT follows is offered with sincere apologies to the great Michael Rosen…

We’re going on a Brexit hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day it will be
We’re not scared (Theresa banned it).

Uh-uh! Sea!
Wet wavy sea.
We could go over it.
We could go under it.

Oh no!
Theresa says we have
To stay this side of the sea
And pulls faces at Europe.

Wishy Washy!
Wishy Washy!
Wishy Washy!

We’re going on a Brexit hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
To send the big Europe away.

Uh-uh! A pile of Eurosceptic drivel.
Deep cold Eurosceptic drivel.
We can’t go over.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no! We need to get through it.

Dive in!
Splash splosh!
Splash splosh!
Splash splosh!
We’re up to our neck in it.

We’re going on a Brexit hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared (Theresa banned it).

Uh-uh! Shit!
Thick oozy Eurosceptic shit.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.

Oh no!
We’re up to our necks in it!

Squelch squelch!
Squelch squelch!
Squelch squelch!

We’re going on a Brexit hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared (well, half of us are).

Uh-uh! A Farage forest!
A big dark Farage forest.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.

Oh no!
We’ve got to go through with it!

Stumble trip!
Stumble trip!
Stumble trip!

We’re going on a Brexit hunt.
We’re going to catch a big Empire 2.0.
What a beautiful idea!
We’re not scared.

Uh-uh! A shitstorm!
A swirling whirling post-Brexit shitstorm.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.

Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

Hoooo woooo!
Hoooo woooo!
Hoooo woooo!

We’re going on a Brexit hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful future!
We’re not scared.

Uh!-uh! A Farage cave!
A narrow gloomy Farage cave!
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.

Oh no!
We’ve got to go through (with) it!


What’s that?
One shiny wet nose!
Two big furry ears!
Two big googly eyes!

Back through the cave!
Tiptoe! Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

Back through the shitstorm!

Hoooo woooo!  Hoooo woooo!  Hoooo woooo!

Back through the Farage forest!

Stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!

Back through the mud!

Squelch squelch! Squelch squelch! Squelch squelch!

Back through the big pile of Eurosceptic drivel!

Dive in!
Splash splosh!  Splash splosh! Splash splosh!

Back through the pain in the arse!

Swishy swashy!  Swishy swashy!  Swishy swashy!

Down the one-way road.
Get to our front door.
Open the door.
Up the stairs.


Oh no!
We forgot to shut the door.
Back downstairs.

Shut the door.
Back upstairs.


Along the passage.
Into the bedroom.
Into bed.
Under the covers.

We’re not going on a Brexit hunt again.

Although, sadly, it seems that of next Wednesday we are…

Ordinary life has to win in the end…

WHO hasn’t walked over Westminster Bridge at some time in their life? That span across the River Thames is often so crowded that all you can do is shuffle along, caught in the crowd – and, yesterday, trapped as a madman used his hire car as a lethal weapon.

Watching the BBC news last night, and scanning the newspapers this morning, stirs different reactions. Horror and anger, for sure, at the cowardice of a man who once again used innocent people as a target for whatever Islamist mania addled his brain.

Admiration for the work of the emergency services, and for the efforts of the Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood who helped paramedics to try to save the life of the stabbed policeman, who sadly died; and at the efficiency of the police as they dealt with this outbreak of terror at the heart of Westminster.

It was possible to be impressed, too, by the resourcefulness of the journalists trapped inside Westminster and broadcasting live using their mobile phones. We are used to this by now, but it was still striking to see the likes of Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, reporting on her mobile while she remained uncertain of what was happening outside.

That’s how we receive news nowadays, the tragedies and the terrors, in mobile snatches and Twitter bursts – and in a crisis, Twitter turns from a frivolous medium into a direct and immediate way to pass on news.

Another feeling, never a good feeling, was that it was ‘our turn’ for something like this to happen. It was a year ago this week that the Islamic state atrocity in Brussels airport killed 32 people, following earlier attacks in Paris, with their massed victims.

It never seems right to compare atrocities, and while far more people died in Brussels and Paris, people in London yesterday went about their day, about their work or their holiday travels, and never returned. That’s why it seems right that we should remember the humanity rather than the inhumanity; we should see the human story of loss, and yet also see the humanity in the efforts to save lives, to put things right, to make society whole again, or at least as whole as possible.

It is natural that we should be angry, that we should seek revenge of some sort, yet it is important to remain calm, and to refrain in our understandable fury from passing round the panic megaphone.

That’s what the terrorists want; they kill innocent people as a way of spreading panic and undermining society. They want our society to fall apart, and we should not grant them that wish.

This point has been made many times before, and is made this morning from different ends of the political spectrum: Simon Jenkins puts the argument powerfully in the Guardian, while the Daily Telegraph cautions against over-reaction, as jihadists want to close down ordinary life, and “we must deny then the disproportionate reaction they seek”.

Instant panic reactions are less welcome, with the Sun saying we need to see more armed police everywhere, and the Daily Mail that greater surveillance of our lives must now occur.

And wouldn’t you know it but there is a Trump mouthing off in all this, too. Not the alarming president but his mini-me son, Donald Trump Jnr.

After the Westminster attack left five dead and 40 people injured, Trump Jnr criticised London mayor Sadiq Khan in a snide tweet. “You have to be kidding me?!” Trump Jnr tweeted, quoting the headline “Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.”

The reference was to a story six months ago in the Independent in which Khan made the hardly surprising point that a terrorist attack would come at some point. It is not clear if Trump Jnr knew this was an old story and not the mayor’s reaction to the latest tragedy. Whatever the case, he jumped in with both feet – like father, like so; and I don’t like either of them one bit.

Mayor Khan’s actual response was sorrowful but measured, and strong too – “Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism,” he said.

After the Paris attacks in which so many people died, a slogan found popularity. It was based on ‘Je suis Charlie’, words seen everywhere after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

The follow-up was less dramatic, less neat – but powerful in its own way, too. It was this: “Je suis en terrasse.” This translated roughly as “I am sitting at a terrace” and the English equivalent might be: “I am down the pub.” It was about the reaffirmation of ordinary life, a refusal to be cowed and the triumph of the ordinary pleasure of having a drink in a cafe. It remains the perfect riposte to terrorists, even if for some this morning thoughts of ordinary life will be a long way off.

Life’s endeavour of a quietly great man…

AN obituary written by a dead man somehow seems fitting for Colin Dexter, the creator of Inspector Morse.

Newspapers keep these tributes on the stocks, as shown by the obit in this morning’s Guardian, which is written by Dennis Barker, who died in 2015. The long-serving journalist graced the pages of that newspaper for some 50 years, and two years after his own death, his words on Dexter are published today.

It sounds almost like a set-up from one of Dexter’s dozen or so crime novels, with the dead honouring the dead. Barker’s ‘one he prepared earlier’ is lovely and not too long. Sometimes with obituaries, the honour being paid can rather go on a bit. Baker’s piece is succinct, respectful and captures the spirit of the man.

I never met Dexter, although I was once introduced to the equally great Reginald Hill, not that long before he died in 2012. That was at the Harrogate crime writing festival. Hill was given a lifetime achievement award that night; the same honour later went to Dexter, by coincidence in the year when Hill died. Dexter was already by then quite frail, but he gave a moving speech and brought the audience to its feet.

Barker’s obit reminds us that we have the rotten weather in Wales to thank for the creation of Inspector E Morse. The rain during a family holiday kept Dexter indoors. He read the detective fiction in the holiday house and concluded he could do better.

That otherwise unrewarding holiday in Wales led to Last Bus To Woodstock, the first Morse novel, published in 1975. Dexter never thought of himself as much of a writer, which is often the way with writers, great and otherwise.

Dexter, who has died aged 86, said he could revise his “bad starts” into something that worked. “I just started writing and forced myself to keep going. And it’s been the same ever since.”

He made Morse from his own flesh to an extent, giving him a classics background, a love of Wagner and real ale, and crosswords too. In a clip on the BBC news last night, Dexter implied that the success of Morse lay in people liking a grump, and that he himself had always been a “cheerful pessimist”, which sounds like a lovely thing to be.

I have read all the novels at one time or other. They work so well because of character, the idiosyncratic, puzzling, irritable Morse and his long-suffering sidekick Lewis (quite different in the novels than on television). And because of place, with medieval Oxford being one of the main characters. Dexter liked to say that he’d never have been a success if he’d been from Rotherham.

Like many others, I watched all the original Morse dramas on ITV, so striking in their day for running to a slowly mesmerising two hours, and with fewer ad breaks than you get today. After that I watched all the spin-offs, with Lewis stepping into the limelight, good at first, then less so, especially when cut down to an hour. Endeavour picked up the baton in style in 2012, with Shaun Evans so satisfying as the young Morse. That series has a title that answered one of the great Morse puzzles: what did that letter E stand for?

Dexter teased that one out until the end when, as Morse lay dying, he revealed that his parents had been Quakers who named him Endeavour in honour of Captain Cook’s ship, which bore that name. Dexter decreed that no other actor could play Morse after John Thaw died, a stricture for which we should be thankful.

A personal memory. Years ago, we used to go on holiday to my in-laws’ caravan which was parked in a field inland from the Cumbrian coast at a place called Tarn, not far from Aspatria. Morse was being repeated at the time. We would buy cheap, date-dodging chocolate from a shop on the coast and have a night watching television while the kids slept. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds, as the car had to be driven down a steep slope so that we could hook the television to the battery. But then fuzzy Morse and old chocolate were ours. And beer too, of course.

Dexter might not have thought of himself as much of a writer, but perhaps that is easy to say when you become so successful. Crime readers loved his books, as did viewers by the millions around the world. A good legacy to have.

In that obituary by a dead man, Dennis Barker writes a lovely paragraph recalling the way Dexter measured his words. And here, to close, is that paragraph…

“Dexter was often asked whether he wrote for a readership or for himself. His answer was that he wrote for his old English teacher Mr Sharp. He would write a page and then ask himself, “Would Mr Sharp like that?” His aim was to feel that Mr Sharp would give it at least eight out of 10.”

Thank heavens for Mr Sharp…

Brexit bias at the BBC? It’s all in the eye of the beholder…

ARE we nearly there yet? That’s been the cry from the pro-Brexit newspapers for months now. And now Mrs Maybe has turned around from the driver’s seat and said that, yes, we will be there next Wednesday. Or two years after next Wednesday. Or however bloody long it takes after next Wednesday.

Then she turned back and, grimly clinging to the steering wheel, started to look out for those signs saying: “Big cliff this way.”

Nine months after the UK voted by a narrow margin to quit the European Union, Theresa May will on March 29 invoke article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, formally serving notice that we’re off into the great unknown.

To tie in with her announcement, a group of 72 MPs – mostly but not all Tories – have written to the BBC accusing it of being too pessimistic and skewed in its coverage of Brexit. The shorthand of this complaint is simple enough: these MPs are cross that the BBC isn’t flying the Brexit flag and joining in the hunky-dory chorus got up by those on the hard right. Instead, they complain, the BBC is “unfairly representing” Leave voters by focusing on those who regret their decision.

This letter from MPs is essentially wrapped round a brick which they have just lopped at the BBC’s windows, as it warns the director general that the future of the BBC “will be in doubt” if it is not seen as an impartial broker.

The Tory MP Julian Knight, a former BBC journalist who backed Remain, organised the letter because he disagreed with the stance of the coverage. Well, at least he comes at the matter from both sides. Among the other Tory signatories are the never knowingly less than revolting Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villiers, about whom I have no easily summoned insult. Duncan Smith endlessly spouts pro-Brexit propaganda, so we expect nothing less of the annoying man.

Joining the 60 grumbling Tories – reports the BBC website – are two Conservative peers, three Labour MPs, eight DUP MP, two DUP peers and UKIP’s only MP, Douglas Carswell – the man who, according to his former leader Nigel Farage, is hellbent on stopping UKIP from being an anti-immigrant party (so he’s not all bad then).

Complaints like this are part of the daily grind for the BBC, which does sometimes trip over its own scuffed brogues while attempting to be impartial. For evidence of this, look no further than the prominence given to climate-change sceptics, whose highly partial views are given equivalence with the scientific consensus that global warming is indeed caused by mankind.

Naturally enough some of the usual suspects are flourishing this anti-BBC letter this morning. The Daily Mail splashes on the story under the customary bellow of a headline: “BBC’S BREXIT BIAS STORM.”

“About 70 MPs are understood to have signed a letter…” fumes the Mail, somehow forgetting to add that most of them were moaning Tories. The similarly Brexit-besotted Daily Telegraph tops the page with: “BBC warned over Brexit ‘bias’.”

And the Daily Express as usual goes for: “Are we nearly there yet?” Or in fact the entirely dreary: “MARCH 29th 2019 DATE SET FOR OUR EU EXIT.”

An unkind thought occurs, as they sometimes do, but just how many Yes-voting  Express readers will have popped their slippers before we even reach that date? The sense of an older generation getting in a last hurrah and saddling their grandchildren with a long-term problem is hard to shake off. Well, it is for me at least.

As for the BBC being biased over Brexit, that seems like nonsense. Perhaps the BBC occasionally wears a frown over Brexit, but it is surely only biased to those who believe that Brexit is going to be a free-world skip in a post-Europe park where the sun never stops shining.

The BBC defended itself with a routine statement that its job was to “scrutinise and analyse” Brexit issues, and that sounds fair enough to me. Bias is often in the eye of the beholder – and the mouth of the Daily Mail, or whichever newspaper one decides to dislike.

I realise people get their news from many sources nowadays, but those who rely on certain newspapers are being fed a diet rich in fatty pro-Brexit meat. Now that is bias as an art-form.

The BBC can never please everyone, but MPs making dark threats and bullying the Beeb over Brexit bias at the Corporation should remove their heads from Nigel Farage’s bottom, and have a proper look around at the world.

They let anyone be an editor nowadays…

SO, George Osborne is to edit the Evening Standard. Everyone’s a journalist these days. Anyone can write a column and put it online. And now anyone can edit a newspaper, even if their newspaper experience extends little beyond having generated a fair few headlines. Some editors have written a lot of headlines; some, it appears, have had a lot written about them.

I don’t know when he found the time to do his NCTJ exams and fitting in his shorthand must have been a nightmare, what with earning £650,000 a year from US fund manager Black Rock – for one day’s work a week – and trousering £800,000 in nine months for making speeches to bankers and Americans. Oh, and that bit of pocket money he earns as MP for Tatton. I am surprised he even gets out of bed for his MP’s salary of £75,000. Mind you, perhaps he’ll end up not going to bed at all at this rate.

Here is some handy information for George. Headlines are those big words at the top of the page. The ones in the Standard usually support your lot, so you should feel at home – although you may feel tempted to attack Theresa May (nice short surname, fits a headline well).

When a story is spiked it is dropped, and this refers to real spikes that used to sit in newsrooms, often in a tin filled with lead. Assorted bits of paper would be stored on these spikes. Sometimes they were bent; sometimes they went straight up. I once wrote a novel in which an editor was murdered by one of those spikes, so be careful.

Intros are the words at the beginning of a story; a crosshead is a word that breaks up a column of type (although a crosshead may also refer to the incredulous journalists who can’t believe that you are now their boss).

Leading is the space between lines of type; and lead piping is something you might want to watch out for if you go to visit Theresa May (that’s if she’ll let you through the door).

The more I think about it, the more I can only conclude that George Osborne’s qualification for the job is down to having been in the news a lot. Perhaps that’s all it takes nowadays, and it is part of a strange bit of job-shunting. The editor of the Standard, Sarah Sands, is a very experienced journalist with virtually no broadcasting experience; so naturally she is off to edit the BBC Today programme. And her job is being passed on to a Tory politician with no newspaper experience.

Then again, the US is being run by a man with zero experience of politics; and less than zero common humanity, so there you go.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband mocked Osborne by joking that he was going to be made editor of Heat magazine. That was quite amusing, unlike Jeremy Corbyn muntering on in the background about this being “yet another example of the establishment revolving door, a closely knit clique who are holding back the British people…” Yes, Jeremy, you have a point but dear me you are determined to bore everyone to death with it. Why didn’t you just say: “Well, I’m off to edit the Beano then” or something vaguely witty?

A few serious points…

Should George Osborne still be an MP with all this extra work? Being an editor is a difficult and demanding job, not something to be quickly fitted in with everything else. Being an MP is a difficult and demanding job. Doing both while also having to cram all that money into your wallet just doesn’t seem right and proper. If nothing else, Osborne ought to step away from Parliament – and from Knutsford with its nice kitchen shops and flashy cars (it’s south of Manchester, George, in case you have forgotten, not far from the airport)

Is a Tory MP, and one known for his devious politicking, the right person to edit a newspaper and won’t he just display total bias towards his party? There are two answers to that: one, yes probably, but the Standard is pretty much a Tory-sheet anyway; two: isn’t Osborne more likely to use the paper to push himself and to settle scores with Theresa May?

Downing Street was said to be “very surprised” by the announcement of George’s new job. You and the rest of us, Mrs Maybe.

This new job is being shaped for George in that he will only edit the paper four days a week, and will still have time to pop to Parliament later in the day, apparently. Presumably his deputy will do most of the real work, you know, all that newspaper stuff. As Osborne told his staff: “I may have run the country but I’ve never run a paper.”

Oh, I bet that had them rolling in the aisles. And wondering if anyone had kept any of those old spikes.

Stilton worries raised over the president’s brain…

POOR Sean Spicer. It’s no wonder he turned up for work wearing odd shoes, one black and the other brown. Being press spokesman to Donald Trump must be like having to plug your mouth into a mad person’s brain. Getting dressed in the usual order must be the last thing on your mind in the morning.

Whatever crazy things your boss says, it is your job to justify or interpret them for the world. Of the many barmy notions that Trump has rattled out on Twitter in the small hours, his belief that former president Barack Obama wiretapped him during the election campaign is the most persistent.

On March 4, Trump tweeted: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

Spicer has offered various interpretations of his boss’s mad mutterings, including telling the press that it was all their fault for taking the president’s tweets at face value. And that Trump put quotation marks around the word ‘wiretapped’ – “to mean broadly surveillance and other activities”.

The nuances of punctuation are not what normally pops into the mind when reading Trump’s tweets. Instead it is possible to worry that the most powerful man in the world either has a hinge missing; or that he is playing with smoke and mirrors in his own mad scheme to disparage everyone and everything ‘non-Donald’. By carrying on in this way, he reduces the world to his own mad logic and gives self-credence to his bizarre version of events.

This wiretapping allegation from the dusty corners of the Trump brain has so far been denied by everyone, from Obama’s spokesman to the Republication and Democrat intelligence chiefs of in the Senate.

Now this mad tale has taken another twist, after Andrew Napolitano, a judicial analyst on Fox News, claimed that three intelligence sources confirmed to him that the Obama administration used Britain’s GCHQ to spy on Trump so that there would be “no American fingerprints on this”.

The normally Trappist GCHQ broke its customary silence and dusted off a spokesman to say: “Recent allegations made by media commentator judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

How tempting it is to take that further and say that Trump is himself utterly ridiculous and should be ignored – or, at the very least, his tweets should be. His ‘wiretapping’ tweets included calling Obama a “bad (or sick) guy”. US officials said his allegations were ‘groundless’.

As Trump is so madly inventive in his tweets, I think we should all join in his game by making up Trump tweets. Here is my suggestion to get things rolling: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my brain tapped shortly before the greatest victory. Ever. Nothing found. Just a soggy piece of stilton cheese.”

As for Sean Spicer’s footwear, you know you’re losing it when you turn up for work in mismatched shoes. Socks I can understand, but shoes? Having to be the spokesman for Trump’s stilton brain must be taking its toll on the poor man.