I was about to tell you of a wonderful weekend in Devon, the Wembury House vs the Zac Goldsmith team cricket match, the beautiful young girls that watched it, the brilliant party that Zac gave following it, and my disgrace (out second ball) on the field. (I made up for it a bit fielding, injuring myself while trying to save face.) In any case, the Hanbury team won, the sun shone like never before, everyone went home happy, but something has occurred in the meantime that takes precedence over the High life.
Before I begin, however, a word to our loyal readers. As some of you must have guessed by now, Lord Black, the proprietor of The Spectator, and I have had our differences over the years. They’ve been mostly over my pro-Palestinian stance, my at times over-the-top admiration of the Wehrmacht, and the fact that I shoot my mouth off before I think when I believe some outrage has taken place. Lord Black and I see each other probably two to three times a year. It is always at his invitation. He has never accepted any of mine except once, long ago. It is safe to say that he and I do not run around with the same people.
Having said that, Lord Black, despite his criticisms of my writings, has always been very fair. He has refused to fire me despite many demands for my head by friends of The Spectator, people who believe I am harming the oldest and most elegantly written weekly of the English-speaking world. Be that as it may, I like to believe that I have never lied to my readers, and have never consciously misled them. This is my only accomplishment in 26 years of writing this column, and I’m rather proud of it. Just as I’m very proud to be associated with the Telegraph group, in my opinion so far above any other newspaper group in Britain – morally that is – that it’s almost unfair to mention it in the same breath as the rest. Believe this because I have worked with other newspapers and magazines and I actually have been instructed to write a lie when it suited the editor. (I did not.)
And finally to the point: some weeks past, during an elegant dinner party in New York, the subject of Hollinger Inc. came up. ‘They are teetering on the verge of insolvency,’ said one guest. ‘I wonder if the Telegraph is up for sale?’ Having closely followed the fortunes of the Hollinger group – a friend reported to me from the Metropolitan Club where the Hollinger shareholders met with management – I assured my dinner friend that there was absolutely no truth in the rumours. His source was the Guardian newspaper and also the Sunday Times. Now I may be old and known to have a drink too many, but ever since my operation I’ve been seeing things far clearer than before. This smelled like a vendetta to me, the launching of a rumour in order to produce a snowball effect, perhaps a sound business ethic, but as untrue and unethical as the Hitler diaries. I have obviously followed the story very closely since then. It is obvious that the Guardian is publishing fabrications against the Telegraph group for reasons only its editor, Alan Rusbridger, knows.
Mind you, I have had my own problems with the Guardian. While I was under threat by Greek gangsters, the paper published the names of people who worked for me, and I had to fly them out of the country for their own protection. This was a nasty thing to do. They were poor people working for a living, c’est tout. I, of course, screamed bloody murder in print, as did Paul Johnson about the Jonathan Aitken affair. Can this be the reason for Rusbridger’s hostility towards the Hollinger group? I doubt it. I am not important, and Paul no longer concerns himself with the Guardian. The latter is a respected paper which is a Bible to many people of the Left. However un-Taki this sounds, I respect the Guardian, despite the fact that they mercilessly attack me as a Cypriot waiter from Brighton. (I find it rather funny, actually.)
No, this is something much more serious. Starting a campaign to represent the Telegraph group as being on the brink of insolvency – a total falsehood – is not only malicious, it is not worthy of a great newspaper like the Guardian. (I would expect it from Murdoch, mind you.) I am no good about business, but I do know many businessmen and bankers. I assure you that the Hollinger group does not need to sell any assets, Lord Black himself is capable of paying off any debt when he needs to, and there is as much possibility of Hollinger collapsing as there is of me marrying Monica Lewinsky.
What I suspect is that some people in the Guardian have it in for Lord Black. They are very, very envious, and they are out to cast aspersions on Conrad Black, his lifestyle and his business performance. Thank God, these people were not in the Black household last Monday, where everyone of power and influence showed up. The falsehoods would increase accordingly.
In closing, and I say this to our readers as well as to the Guardian, trust the poor little Greek boy. I know things you don’t. We will be around for a long time, far longer than my lifetime. And under the same management.