It is, of course, one thing for another male columnist to
have my mug shot inflicted upon him. But when my female fellow
writer, Maggie Brown, has my physiog decorating her column, I
think apologies are required.
Sorry, Maggie. No offence intended. Mistakes do happen.
I found my first newspaper, the Hebden Bridge Times, still
blushing with shame over an edition years earlier in which, I was
told, the wedding and recipe types got mixed up and the happy
couple ended up ’stewing in their own juices for two hours’.
Mind you, it might matter less if this newspaper’s picture of me
were flattering. Instead - and I’ve been dying to say this for
years - it is out of the top drawer of modern photo-journalism
which requires a picture to fit the subject’s image. So for years
I have been staring out at you as if I had a boil on my
Which brings me effortlessly to the Sun newspaper. It used to
swoon over Maggie (Thatcher, not Brown) and is now ’putting its
trust’ in Labour leader Tony Blair who has the ’face that fits’.
Ludicrously, legend has it that, as No 10 press secretary, I
assiduously cultivated the Sun and even dictated its leaders. In
fact, I treated all newspapers alike, including the Communist
Morning Star, in the dissemination of news. What Gordon Reece and
Tim Bell got up to with the Sun on behalf of the Prime Minister
is another matter - and frankly still a mystery.
But I did not spend my time wondering how I could next curry
favour with Larry Lamb, the Sun’s editor. In any case, I have my
serious doubts as to the effect of the media on voters,
especially as half the Sun’s readers seem to have consistently
voted Labour. In the 1980s, the Sun’s chief value - apart from
making my life easier by not opposing Mrs T - was in complaining
that she was not going far enough. This was rather useful to the
boss as a weapon against the waterlogged.
And it raises the question as to whether the Sun’s real value to
Mr Blair, especially as it has ’reservations about some of New
Labour’s policies’, will be in office rather than getting him
there, if he makes it. He would need every ally he could find
when the Left had its hands on the public purse and the unions on
the levers of power.
He could, presumably, expect no help from the Guardian since it
is dedicated to rooting out ’sleaze’ in public life, if not in
journalism. Or could he? Can anyone explain why the Guardian is
so unmoved by the cesspit of Labour-dominated local government -
unless it be that, like the Sun, it does not know the meaning of
the word consistency?