John Gibson: Tony could send Simon downtown

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From the mists of time emerges Tony Hatch, who, centuries ago pre-Simon Cowell, was a household name in a talent show titled New Faces launched in the Seventies. He was a “nasty, real mean” judge.

But his claim to fame, something that made him a millionaire, was Downtown, the song he composed for Petula Clark, pictured below. Made her a fortune, too.

Today, former king of the hatchet jobs, is saying: “I stalked Denmark Street in Soho knocking on doors until I found a job as a tea boy. Then I made sure I got to play the piano when artists came in looking for songs to buy. Then I started writing my own songs.”

The hatchet, at 73, admits: “There are a few songs I’d like to have – for example, the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations. But I’m not complaining. I like to think even Cowell might be impressed.”

Cowell? Never in the same league. More skill and telly charm in the Downtown composer’s wee finger.

Taliban ban?

Running scared. The dithering Ministry of Defence is trying to hush up a warts-and-all book about Afghanistan, about our costly campaign in Helmand. Ten years a soldier, Oxford-educated Mike Martin, 31, has got Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and his MoD mates wetting the bed, clamouring to have the book pulped. Too close to the truth. A Tali ban?

Fearless critic Martin is proceeding with his book, rubber-stamped by his senior officers regardless. Look out for it – An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict 1978-2012.