MANDRAKE: Daily Mail fears over 'Victor Meldrew' show

PUBLISHED: 11:22 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:22 19 September 2019

A front page of the Daily Mail. Photograph: TNE.

A front page of the Daily Mail. Photograph: TNE.

Archant

Mail boss is concerned about Paul Dacre's Channel 4 show, Question Time undervalues Ken Clarke and David Cameron's easy ride promoting his memoirs, says TIM WALKER.

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Paul Dacre's relationship with his proprietor Lord Rothermere - already strained by his defenestration as editor of the Daily Mail - has taken a further turn for the worse. Mandrake hears that his lordship and other senior executives in the company are concerned about Dacre's decision to expound upon his views in a Channel 4 series.

"Dacre didn't consult Rothermere about it, and, when he found out, he could see that this series would impact massively on the Mail's reputation and not in a good way," whispers my nark in the newsroom. "Attempts are being made to modernise the paper's image and having Dacre doing a Victor Meldrew act isn't going to help in that endeavour."

Channel 4 is not broadcasting The World According to Paul Dacre until early 2021, which makes it a big hostage to fortune for the company. One theory is that the exceptionally distant transmission date suggests Dacre might envisage no longer working for the company by then.

The 70-year-old former editor has traditionally shied away from television cameras, feeling that broadcasting requires a very different skill set to print journalism.

His agitated appearance before the Leveson inquiry into journalistic ethics in 2012 does not bode well, but his son James may be able to help him to polish up his act. He is the artistic director of Royal & Derngate Theatres in Northampton.

Easy rider:

Mandrake is now officially on non-speaking terms with Laurence Mann, David Cameron's factotum.

Always punctilious about answering inquiries in the past - and civil - Mann appears to have taken umbrage at my suggestion that his boss has only been willing to talk to 'soft' interviewers in connection with the launch of his memoirs.

My request to interview Cameron for this newspaper inevitably fell on deaf ears and Eddie Mair and Andrew Neil were both deemed too ferocious to be allowed anywhere near him.

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Still, the chap who interviewed Cameron for the Times over the weekend was able to inform us he is "a little slimmer" as he has been running, walking, playing tennis, climbing mountains and swimming off the Hebridean island of Jura.

I fancy Cameron's book will do something he signally failed to do which is to unite the country. Leavers will doubtless leave it well alone and Remainers won't want to be reminded of him. How ironic if, before Christmas, it's remaindered.

Cable's gift:

Chuka Umunna was on good form at the Liberal Democrat conference in sunny Bournemouth over the weekend when he told members that it was refreshing to be in a party and not have to worry constantly about offending anyone with his "liberal" views.

I raised the possibility of Umunna joining the Lib Dems when I'd interviewed Sir Vince Cable up in Stockport in March last year. The party's then leader had smiled enigmatically and said he knew Umunna and liked him and would be delighted to welcome him.

Jo Swinson has been an energising force since taking over from Cable, but so much of the groundwork for the party's present revival was down to his quiet persistence during the party's wilderness years.

Victoria's secret:

Mandrake wonders by what measure of insanity the words of Victoria Atkins - the Tory MP who has lately been defending Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament - are worth more than double those of the great Ken Clarke.

Atkins has just declared that the makers of Question Time paid her £490 for appearing on the show in April, when she drew gasps from the audience for praising Margaret Thatcher as an early champion of climate change.

Clarke, who appeared on the show the month before in Warrington, declares that he picked up just £200. A lot of BBC shows pay a flat rate fee and that's that, but in Atkins's case travel and hospitality was allowed. The modern BBC knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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