TIM WALKER on a notable name missing from the New Year Honours list.
Although his fanatical support for Brexit helped tip the referendum in 2016, Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail, was once again overlooked in last week’s honours list.
“It’s mystifying as even his worst enemies would concede he was an infinitely superior editor in comparison to Charles Moore and Veronica Wadley and yet they have both been ennobled by Boris Johnson,” says my man at Northcliffe House, the newspaper’s Kensington headquarters. “This hurts as Paul has always been fiercely competitive and he’s conscious, too, his predecessor David English received a knighthood, and, at the time of his death, was about to receive a peerage.”
I’ve heard speculation that Johnson was peeved Dacre rebuffed an attempt last year to make him chairman of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom. More intriguingly, there are whispers that Carrie Symonds used her influence with the prime minister to block the honour as she was incensed Dacre described her in a Spectator article as “the 31-year-old minx who is the current Boris Johnson bedwarmer”.
How long the 72-year-old Dacre will continue to clock on in the Mail building – where he retains the title editor-in-chief – is unclear. In the latest annual report of the parent company DMGT, he’s only mentioned in relation to his share awards, which made him £1,133,751 last year.
Old hands at the Mail say the days of all-powerful imperial editors at the group are now over and point to how, in the same report, the print version of the paper came under the category of “predictable performer,” rather than other businesses in the group which were deemed to be “growing and delivering” and “businesses for the future.” The DMGT chairman Lord Rothermere boasted in the report of the “Mail Force” campaign to source PPI for health and social care providers, but made no mention of Dacre’s successor Geordie Greig, whose brainchild the laudable campaign was.
Mandrake was taught at journalism school to avoid glaring inconsistencies, but John Campbell, the BBC’s Northern Ireland economics editor, must have been off on the day that came up. “The first goods have crossed the new trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK,” he kicked off a story on the BBC website.
A few paragraphs on, he quoted Brandon Lewis, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, saying: “There is no ‘Irish Sea Border’. As we have seen today, the important preparations the government and businesses have taken to prepare for the end of the Transition Period are keeping goods flowing freely around the country, including between GB and NI.”
There’s a surreal quality to the whole of the BBC website these days, where its journalists struggle daily to try to make some sense of government policy. Another day I saw it reported “Boris Johnson said tougher measures may be needed to combat the new variant of the coronavirus.” The story underneath was headlined: “PM: Send children to school on Monday.”
“I’m delighted after years of fighting for it, we have axed the hated Tampon tax,” boasted the Tory hardliner Steve Baker on Twitter the other day. Labour’s Karl Turner, a self-confessed “Lefty lawyer,” wasn’t having it. “Why lie, Steve?” he responded. “You voted against this, but you’ll keep pretending you’ve been ‘fighting for it’ for years. Embarrassing.” An answer came there none.
The Tory MP Sir David Amess added to the gaiety of nations last week when he posted online a photograph of a life-size cardboard cut-out of Margaret Thatcher. He captioned it with the words: “While Margaret didn’t live long enough to see this day, I am sure she is rejoicing in heaven. At last ‘we got Brexit done.'”
Sadly, Amess’s relationship with Thatcher appears to have been conducted largely posthumously and with her cut-out. Amess never impinged sufficiently on Thatcher’s consciousness in life for her to acknowledge his existence in her memoirs.
What’s more, Thatcher, who campaigned vigorously to join the European family and spoke publicly about what folly it would be to leave it, defended herself in her book from the charge she was ever “anti-European”. She quoted from her own famous Bruges speech which called for Europe to be a “family of nations… doing more together… relishing our national identity no less than our common European endeavour.”