Nigel Dempster was the most famous print journalist of modern times, even though he seldom appeared on television. I remember his coming down to Oxford in the early Seventies. A group of admirers lured him to the Saraceno restaurant in Magdalen Street. Foremost among them was Tina Brown, already setting her compass in the direction of Fleet Street. Everyone was entranced by Nigel. There was scarcely anyone in the world whom a group of undergraduates would rather have met.
Last week Nigel left the Daily Mail after 30 years. He was a raffish and glamorous poacher who gradually turned into a grand gamekeeper. To start with, he saw much to mock in the ways of the aristocracy. As time went on, he found these people less risible, and grew to like them. But his love affair was not mirrored in the nation. On the contrary, as he became fonder of the aristocracy, ordinary people were beginning to grow bored of them. This may have applied even to some readers of the Daily Mail. In Blairite Britain members of the aristocracy were no longer the richest or necessarily the most beautiful people. Certainly they were no longer the most outrageous in their behaviour. In this sense the upper classes let Nigel down. Forgivably, he was not greatly attracted by the new class of ‘celebrities’ whose frequently vulgar or loutish antics preoccupy a new breed of gossip columnists such as the Daily Mirror’s ‘3 am Girls’.
I wonder whether the Royal Family is not following the aristocracy down the same path. The royal reporter of the Sun has recently been told that he will be expected to cover general news stories as well as royal ones. This is an extraordinary development. It is a rum state of affairs if the Sun can no longer find enough royal stories for one person to write about.