The news that two of the finest heads of hair in journalism are to take over ITV’s Sunday political show, has opened up a new career opportunity for ITN newscaster Alastair Stewart. As Andrea Catherwood moves from Mark Austin’s deputy on the News at When to join Andrew Rawnsley on the Sunday sofa, Stewart has been promoted to replace her in the number two slot on the ITV late night news show.

It’s quite a coup for Stewart who was convicted three years ago of a drink driving offence and lost his high profile job as presenter of ITV’s Police, Camera, Action. And earlier this year he was ousted as chief anchor of the ITV News Channel when it shut down.


Speculation is also rife that Andrew Rawnsley will now be forced to give up his Sunday night presenter slot on the Westminster Hour. However, a decision on Rawnsley’s future is unlikely to be taken immediately if only because the programme’s editor Terry Dignan is on holiday, as is his boss James Stephenson, as is his boss Rick Bailey.  BBC insiders think it is a particularly odd move by Rawnsley as the Westminster Hour has an audience double the size of the old Dimbleby programme, and anyone who’s anyone in the political world listens to it. But Rawnsley’s friends say he was never happier than when he was presenting Channel 4’s A Week in Politics with the much missed Vincent Hanna. This was the programme which gave Martha Kearney her break in political broadcasting and it would be deeply ironic if Rawnsley’s defection to ITV opened up the Westminster Hour for Martha Kearney to take over. Stranger things have happened.






There was a mild sense of panic at Talk Sport last week when George Galloway hadn’t shown up to present his Sunday night show, but with minutes to spare he ran into the studio hopelessly out of breath and almost unable to speak. It transpired that his open top red sports car had caught fire on Battersea Bridge and with time running out our intrepid hero had to leg it to Talk Sport’s Waterloo studios, leaving his passion wagon smouldering on the roadside. Rumours that members of Mossad were spotted in a getaway launch on the Thames heading towards Putney were said to be wide of the mark. I think.





As the UKIP leadership race draws to its conclusion at least two of the leadership candidates appear to indulging in a bit of mutual backscratching. Former Tunbridge Wells Tory Chairman David Campbell-Bannerman and MEP Nigel Farage are the two favourites to succeed to the charismally-challenged Roger Knapman but I hear that Farage has proposed Campbell-Bannerman for membership of the exclusive East India Club. Farage’s Brussels colleague Godfrey Bloom is his seconder. It’s either an illustration of the gentlemanly nature of UKIP leadership contests, or a hostile takeover of the East India Club. If I were them I’d be thinking about a blackball.








Good to know that the Dunkirk spirit is alive and well among British Airways air hostesses, or flight attendants as we must now call them. On the day of the latest airport terror alerts a group of Al Jazeera journalists landed at Heathrow on their way to the States. Their outbound flight unsurprisingly experienced a lengthy delay, but it wasn’t until they were eventually airborne that they discovered the real reason for the delay. It was nothing to do with the terror alerts at all. Apparently the BA trolley dollies objected to being asked to take their stockings off as part of a security check, and they duly downed tools, if that’s an appropriate expression. Quite how they were eventually coaxed out of their stockings is best left to tasteless speculation.


Meanwhile, it appears that BAA is taking drastic action to improve the speed of their security checks at Heathrow. According to a friend of mine to flew to Los Angeles last week Duty Free shop staff are being given one hour’s training and drafted in to search passengers’ bags. They’re none too happy about it and openly admit they haven’t got a clue what they’re doing. Still, it doesn’t beat my experience at ITN last week when I was told by their security guard to search my own bag, as due to health and safety legislation he wasn’t  allowed to put his hand in the bag himself. Just as well, as I had brought my pet piranha along for the ride.





I bring sad news from the Blogosphere. Jeffrey Archer’s new blog is no more. It is a dead blog. It has ceased to be. Quite what has caused the best selling author to ditch it after only a few weeks isn’t clear. I suppose we could indulge in mindless speculation, but that wouldn’t be very nice, would it? Perhaps some people are just cut out for blogging and some are not. Let’s be charitable towards Jezza, for one.





Filming is about to start on a new BBC2 drama series called Party Animals, which appears to be a sort of House of Commons meets This Life. The main characters are a group of twentysomething parliamentary researchers whose lives revolve around sex, drugs and politics. So it’s quite true to life then. The script writers have been inundated by phonecalls and emails from party apparatchiks detailing their various liaisons and sniffing escapades within the Palace of Westminster. Sadly, most of the real life experiences are too unbelievable to be included in the script. Mark Twain’s remark about truth being stranger than fiction has never been more apposite.