Claire Black: Why Cabinet cad is a laughing matter

Bryony Gordon. Picture: Andrew Crowley
Bryony Gordon. Picture: Andrew Crowley
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OH GOOD on you Mr Desmond Carrington. Last week, 861,000 people listened to the octogenarian on Radio 2 playing his tunes “from home in Perthshire”.

There was some Matt Monro, a bit of Artie Shaw and, of course, some Glenn Miller. I cannot tell you how much it pleases me that nearly a million people, an increase of 184,000 in the last year alone, listen to Carrington (and Sam the cat, of course) on a Friday night from 7pm. In part this is because I’ve been listening to him for years, long before I was a Radio 2 listener, and so I feel confirmed in my good taste. And also because recently I’ve become a proper Radio 2 listener (I define this as someone whose car radio is tuned to 89.9FM, and one who would cancel a night out with pals to listen to Liza Tarbuck on a Saturday night) and so I’m glad there are lots of others. Carrington did his first ever broadcast in 1945. He was a member of the British Forces Broadcasting Service and he wore a uniform while presenting his show. The man has been broadcasting for nearly 70 years. He’s a wonder. And when some whippersnapper moved him from Sunday lunchtime to Tuesday evening, back in 2004, we all knew it was a step towards the departure lounge no matter what we were told. How delightful that Carrington has just stepped right back out of it. We salute you, sir.

Cabinet cad a laughing matter

YOU know how it is, you’re at a party and the 30 quid a bottle vino is flowing from the free bar. You’ve already had a swell time with your boss at another party and you’re riding high. You can feel the heat of the booze in your cheeks and the young women dotted around the bar are reminding you what a catch you are. Man about town, middle-aged, slightly portly perhaps, but with age comes experience and you’ve still got it – the charisma, the charm, a twinkle in your eye. A member of Her Majesty’s Government no less.

I can only guess that this is how things unfolded for Michael Fallon at that party four years ago in Pimlico. And then when he swaggered up to the woman at the bar to impress her, little could he have known how badly it would go. On discovering that she worked for the Daily Telegraph, he proceeded, according to her, to enquire whether she knew “that slut” who wrote the column that runs at the back of the magazine, “What’s her name?” he asked, presumably emitting a cloud of boozy breath, “Bryony Gordon?” he fished the name from his boozy memory. He couldn’t have asked a better person because, of course, this was Bryony Gordon. Quelle horreur.

Gordon, being a columnist, who specialises in confessional writing which leaves no mortifying detail unrevealed, wrote about it. She didn’t name him, but claimed that the government minister “blushed crimson and spent the rest of the evening apologising profusely”.

It appeared that at the heart of David Cameron’s “female friendly” Cabinet there was a scoundrel and a cad who didn’t think much of women at all. But who amongst us really believed that the Cabinet is a supportive environment for women? Still I’m glad Gordon spoke out. And I hope Fallon was mortified. It’s just that I bet you it wasn’t what he said that troubled him but that he said it directly to the woman concerned.

I’ve met men at parties who act like that and speak as Fallon did. Most women will have. These creatures are absolutely convinced that it is their right, no matter how distasteful their own behaviour, to state unequivocally the manner in which they believe women should act. That’s why when friends came to Fallon’s defence, conceding he had referred to Gordon in “the wrong way”, they added, “It was a remark made at 11pm after two parties.” Oh well, that’s all right then. No, it isn’t. Just as it wasn’t all right when the Turkish deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, gave his “morality speech” last week in which he said in an ideal world, women “will not laugh in public”. The two things may not be exactly the same but they are very similar. Men deciding how women should behave and heaping opprobrium – be it in a misguided political speech or booze-soaked banter – on women who don’t comply. The women of Turkey responded by posting hundreds of photos of themselves laughing all over social media. Bryony Gordon responded by calling out Fallon. I’m all for it.

Unhinged melodies

SOME people know all the words to their favourite songs. I’m not one of them. Without the music playing, I’m usually stumped. And no wonder. It turns out most song lyrics are bunch of baloney. Hence a new poll which reveals the most confusing lyrics of all time. It’s not just that silly Brandon Flowers demanding “Are we human or are we dancer?” but Liam Gallagher whining about “Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball”. Eh? And it only gets worse when we change the lyrics we don’t understand. My pal still sings, “Oh Blue Seal, don’t take your love to town”, and another thought that Madonna was threatening to throw herself into the swirling waters because of an unwanted pregnancy when she sang “Poppadom Bridge”.