A spokesman for the Nowtrage Institute commented:

Today’s attempt at nowtrage from the Daily Mail is the revelation that the BBC are employing someone who may have taken cocaine. Nothing really worth looking at for too long as it’s the standard ‘let’s create a row by taking a non-story and calling Mediawatch for a quote’ space-filler.

However, it did get me wondering if other rent-a-quote organisations get jealous of of Mediawatch and John Beyer. While the Taxpayers’ Alliance has done well for itself over the last few years, it still tends to have to do some actual work to get itself featured in the papers, spending money on paying someone to go through the jobs pages of the Guardian with a sneer and a calculator then sending out their report to the papers in the hope that someone that’s not a Tory blogger will stick it on page 8 with a quote. Mediawatch, on the other hand, only need to make sure that Beyer’s got a working phone line – though I suspect his track record is such you could construct a passable version of a Beyer quote if his line was down – and are guaranteed coverage any time there’s a slow news day.

Wouldn’t you be envious if your hard-crafted report on how much councils have overspent on paperclips and coffee in the past five years was overlooked in favour of a quick call to Beyer to generate a row? Or would you see him as the shining example of your trade, the man you hope to emulate while dreaming of tapping into the trans-Atlantic wingnut welfare circuit?

Shoulda, woulda, coulda

I suppose I should be glad that my gym gives out free copies of the Daily Mail, because if they hadn’t, I’d never have known that they were posing the question of ‘Should Britain invade Zimbabwe?

For those of you wondering what might happen if Britain was to invade Zimbabwe, you’ll be glad to hear that everything goes wonderfully well and the whole thing’s over within a couple of hours, as soon as the Paras have arrested Mugabe and Trevor Phillips has been brought in to run the country instead. No, that last bit is seriously in there, which perhaps indicates that Richard Littlejohn is trying to earn himself a few extra pennies by working as a sub-editor on Friday nights.

Of course, the Mail knows this invasion would be easy because it has an expert source advising it on the feasibility of an invasion of Zimbabwe. Yes, occupying a similar place in the rankings of global military experts as Trevor Phillips does in the list of ‘people likely to be placed in charge of an African country’, the Mail has found ‘Graham’, a former Rhodesian SAS officer who wins this week’s Ahmed Chalabi Flowers and Cheering Crowds Award for telling us that invading Zimbabwe would be ‘a piece of piss’.

Of course, the reason for this piece of bizarre Daily Mail war-gaming – and, perhaps, why they’re not as ridiculously gung-ho about the idea of sending Our Boys off to tackle Mugabe as you might have expected them to be – is Tony Blair telling the world that retirement hasn’t dulled his desire for invading small and seemingly easily-defeatable countries. (As long as it’s not him doing any of the actual invading, of course). Showing that his talent for encapsulating the banality of evil in a simple soundbite hasn’t left him either, he tells us:

My idea of foreign policy is that if you can do something, you should do it.

So let us hope that Kim Jong-Il never decides to take a crash course in the Blair Method of Foreign Relations, where it seems possessing an ability requires it use regardless of other considerations. But, I’m sure that when the historians of the future look back on the last decade or so, that will be yet another utterance from Tony that will generate year upon year of heated debate as they wonder just how a man who could utter such statements was ever taken seriously.

But, we can hope for one thing – if Blair truly believes that those who can should, then he surely can’t complain when a country that can arrest him and put him on trial does so. Indeed, given his words, he’ll likely be disappointed with them if they choose not to do so.