The Telegraph
Sunday , February 17 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Murdoch titillates with Twitter teaser

Rupert Murdoch has given hope to the feminist lobby, which has long campaigned against the “sexist” Page 3 in The Sun, that he is considering dropping pictures of topless girls from Britain’s bestselling newspaper.

A hitherto unknown woman, Karen Mason, with only 23 followers on Twitter, used her nickname to tweet as @Kazipooh and express her distaste for the unrelenting diet of bare breasts.

Addressing @rupertmurdoch (followers: 4,06,217) she wrote: “Seriously, we are all so over page 3 — it is so last century! #nomorepage3.”

The response less than an hour later from the 81-year-old chairman and chief executive of News Corp read: “You maybe right, don’t know but considering. Perhaps halfway house with glamorous fashionistas.”

But if topless pictures are dropped from The Sun, it would be the end of civilisation as they have known it for a big part of Britain’s working population — with a daily circulation of 2.4 million, the paper is read by twice as many people. The partial nudity may seem tame by today’s standards but Page 3 is such an integral part of the brand that Murdoch may yet be persuaded by senior editors and executives at News International not to commit commercial suicide.

Murdoch bought The Sun in 1969 and apparently had reservations when the paper’s then editor, Larry Lamb, introduced the topless Page 3 girl in November 1970. But as circulation shot up, he accepted the change.

In Britain, many impressionable schoolgirls have posed topless on becoming 16 in the hope of making it to Page 3 — often encouraged by ambitious mothers and predatory modelling agencies.

Their role model is someone like Katie Price, who left school at 16, surgically enhanced her breasts, and became a Page 3 girl. But she was also endowed with a sharp business sense so that today she is worth an estimated £45m.

For the Page 3 institution, only one frontier remains to be crossed in multi-cultural Britain. No Indian or Pakistani girl has yet been lured to pose topless for The Sun.


Royal reliance

Prince Charles, who set up a charity called the British Asian Trust in 2007, has pulled off something of a coup by persuading Mukesh Ambani to become the chairman of its India Advisory Council.

Mukesh’s responsibility is not simply to write out a handsome cheque but will be to identify suitable projects for the charity.

At a dinner to mark the charity’s fifth anniversary held last week in the flower-filled Waterloo Chamber of Windsor Castle, Mukesh and his wife Nita were greeted warmly by Charles.

The chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries and Charles met for the first time in July last year, according to Hitan Mehta, executive director of the trust which tries to “help transform the lives of thousands of people in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom”.

One scheme the trust supports is Aangan’s Project Shakti which “helps sexually abused girls in Mumbai”, while another, Mann Deshi, has assisted “50,000 women to set up their own businesses”.

Charles told 250 guests: “I am hugely grateful to Mukesh Ambani.

“In the next five years, we should hope to do more and, if we can, on a larger scale — with particular focus on women and girls, together with support for improving and caring for the natural environment in the whole region,” he added.

“I happen to have a particular affection and interest in that part of the world,” admitted Charles. “I wanted to reiterate my enormous gratitude to those people in my trust who have made all this possible, Manoj Badale and Hitan Mehta for instance and their team.”

Mukesh, who felt “greatly honoured”, responded: “It is a privilege to be working with an organisation that understands the importance of genuine impact and sustainability.”


Madam PM

Borgen is a TV series made for Sonia Gandhi. Watching this fictional drama about Denmark’s first woman Prime Minister reminds me of Jagmohan Mundhra who passed away in September 2011 without being allowed to achieve his long-held ambition of making a biopic on Sonia.

She isn’t the head of government but Borgen shows the potential in political drama with a woman at the centre. “Borgen” means “the Castle”, the nickname of Christiansborg Palace, which houses all three of Denmark’s branches of government: Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court.

The Guardian summed it up: “This compelling drama is as much about women as it is about politics — with a superb performance by its central character, Sidse Babett Knudsen, as Danish Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg.”

Borgen, now in its third and final series, depicts “Birgitte”, as everyone calls her, as a divorcée and single mother coping simultaneously with a crisis in government and at home. For example, her teenage daughter, prone to panic attacks and mental problems, desperately calls mum at work but cannot get through because the Prime Minister, locked in a Cabinet crisis, has told her personal assistant: “No calls.”

On hearing that her daughter had not been put through, she fires her assistant but then relents and has her back. Bit by bit, we all identify with beautiful Birgitte, leader of the Moderate Party and head of a coalition government, as she juggles media advisers, ambitious TV inquisitors and scheming politicians on her own side. There are aspects that couldn’t be replicated in an Indian context — bereft of love and sex, Birgitte has a one night stand with her stunned chauffeur.

But something like South Block, set in India, could be sold round the world. Mind you Mamata, the docu-drama, would be rejected as being implausible.

Order, order!

Veteran Labour MP Keith Vaz was excessively generous to India’s parliamentary democracy in a speech last week. His address was one in the series, “Parliamentarians on Parliament”, instituted by the Speaker, John Bercow, in his magnificent apartments in the Commons overlooking the Thames.

After receiving his opposite number, Meira Kumar, Bercow paid a return visit to India and was taken aback to witness Mamata Banerjee in full flow.

Bercow characterised the Lok Sabha exchanges as “robust”.

Whatever did Vaz mean when he murmured, “Of course, at Westminster, Mr Speaker would never have allowed it”?


Blade runner

Oscar Pistorius now stands accused of the St Valentine’s Day murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkam. But at the Paralympic Games last summer, I, like everyone else, wanted to see him in action — and was lucky enough to sit by the finish.

The “poster boy” of the Paralympics, who ended the Games with a win, was hailed as “the fastest man with no legs”.

But we did witness a moment of rage after he was being beaten by Alan Oliveira of Brazil in the 200m — he complained, inaccurately, that the latter’s longer leg blades gave him an unfair advantage by increasing his stride length. Later he apologised and reinstated himself in the affections of the 80,000 crowds that came nightly to the Paralympics.


Tittle tattle

Intriguing but possibly honest observation from Adam Thomson, British high commissioner to Pakistan, while briefing journalists at the foreign office in London last week: “Pakistan’s creative art is, in my opinion, the best in South Asia.”