MANDRAKE: Rupert Murdoch’s new ‘sensitive’ radio station gives Boris Johnson an easy ride
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With many broadcasters becoming hostile to Boris Johnson's coronavirus response, TIM WALKER reports Rupert Murdoch's new radio station appears to be willing to give the government an easy ride.
Although Boris Johnson did what he could for his old mate Rupert Murdoch and granted Times Radio an interview on its first day on air last week, the new station hasn't yet got the BBC quaking in its boots. 'It's very white and middle class and journalistically we're not too worried about it,' one corporation executive tells Mandrake. 'What has been striking is how sensitive it's been to criticism.'
Magnanimously, Amol Rajan bigged up Times Radio on The Media Show on Radio 4 – the station Murdoch wants to take on – but was given a tongue-lashing for his trouble from the new outfit's Matt Chorley. Rajan suggested its 'warm and welcoming' ethos could be taken as a euphemism for 'soft and sloppy'. Chorley snapped back on Twitter that he felt it was 'quite something' to be accused of that by Rajan, 'who spends his time presenting The One Show.'
Johnson, still boycotting the Today programme and talking threateningly about abolishing the licence fee, was given what was felt to be an easy ride by Times Radio presenters Aasmah Mir and Stig Abell. They delicately chose not to pick up on comments made earlier on their show by John Witherow, the editor of the Times newspaper, about how Johnson had been sacked from his newspaper for lying.
Times Radio has had some good reviews – albeit from, among others, Gillian Reynolds in Murdoch's Sunday Times – and it insists it has no intention of becoming a radio version of Fox News. Still, it has already had its right-wing moments. Notable among these was a cosy chat between Michael Portillo and Michael Gove, in which the latter lavished praise on his friend 'Dom' Cummings for his 'blistering honesty.'
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The BBC is now asking people defecting to Times Radio to clear their desks immediately, which may make life uncomfortable for the Times columnist and podcaster David Aaronovitch, who also hosts a Radio 4 show.
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PETER'S FRIENDSMandrake noted last week the screeching handbrake turn executed by Peter Oborne in relation to his former friend Boris Johnson. The political commentator now considers the PM to be a man who 'lies, cheats and fabricates, habitually and systematically.'
One of Oborne's 'friends' draws my attention to an even more embarrassing piece he wrote for the Daily Mail exactly a year ago.'Many people dismissed Boris as a buffoon and a charlatan,' Oborne trilled. 'His political rivals were envious of his intelligence, his ability to draw a crowd and even his success with women...
'Behind the bluster there has always been a brilliant man... he mastered a brief with immense speed... he possessed a mature, nuanced understanding of politics, which far surpassed anyone else I have ever dealt with.. Brilliant himself, he will want to have brilliant men and women about him.'
This time last year Mandrake disclosed how the arch Brextremist Peter Bone had managed – at the taxpayers' expense – to unite two factions in his life. He employed Jeanette Bone, his former wife, as his secretary in his parliamentary office. He also employed Helen Harrison – the woman 20 years his junior that he left her for – as a part-time assistant. Now, however, he employs only Harrison, after his former wife decided it was time to make her exit. One hopes she got a deal.
BATTLE ROYALSarah Vine is facing legal action from Mic Wright after a spat on Twitter led to her suggesting that her fellow journalist, who has often written pieces exposing sex offenders and other criminals, had an unhealthy interest in teenage girls.
Wright demanded an apology from the Daily Mail columnist, but none was forthcoming. He has raised £20,000 through crowdfunding for a legal action from more than 1,000 backers. He is represented by Tamsin Allen at Bindmans and the QC Hugh Tomlinson. Wright is taking on a powerful opponent: Vine is the wife of Michael Gove, and, while his legal letter was issued to Vine as an individual, the reply came from the Mail's legal department.