Paul Foot Award 2014: Private Eye wades in on HSBC scandal

Paul Foot Award 2014: Private Eye wades in on HSBC scandal
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Mr S was a guest at last night's Paul Foot Award, the investigative journalism prize co-hosted by the Guardian and Private Eye. While Alan Rusbridger was unable to attend the Piccadilly bash, his co-sponsor Ian Hislop made sure the departing Guardian editor-in-chief's presence was felt. 'Alan's not here. He is retiring as you know, he's very retiring, he never mentions the Pulitzer prize,' he said to roars of laughter from the audience.

Next in Hislop's firing line was Hugh Grant, with the Private Eye editor taking aim at the Love Actually actor for his recent claim in the Guardian that it was Hacked Off who saved the press from police spying.

'Interestingly Hugh Grant wrote a piece in the Guardian saying this was all down to Hacked Off, and he said the newspapers did nothing which turns out wasn't strictly true. This all goes to prove what Hugh said all along, that you cannot believe what you read in the papers.'

However, it was the fall-out from the recent HSBC tax scandal which took up the majority of Hislop's speech. After the Telegraph was accused of  running reduced coverage of the story out of fear of losing advertising revenue, the paper has become embroiled in a spat with the Times and Guardian over how each publication conducts their advertising and editorial departments. Hislop pointed out that no such allegations should be levelled at Private Eye:

'I can make this point about advertising, Private Eye has a distinguished history here. When I first joined the paper the advertising staff were very excited because they had a set of full page adverts from Linguaphone, and said "can we have this facing copy?" and I said I'm not sure you want this, and they said no they'd like it facing copy so Paul Foot wrote a page about what a rip off Linguaphone was. We then topped this, we got a set of adverts from Virgin Atlantic and again they were facing copy. This was during Branson's hot air phase, and we did a picture of a balloon with Branson underneath it with the phrase "you've got to be careful putting pricks near balloons".'

Arguments aside, it was time for the winners to be announced. The panel opted to split the prize between two entries with envelopes of £3,000 going to:

  • The Sunday Times 
  • Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake

    Campaign: The FIFA Files

    • Private Eye
    • Richard Brooks and Andrew Bousfield

      Campaign: Shady Arabia and the Desert Fix

      Heidi Blake's win for her work at the Sunday Times will come as a boost to Buzzfeed. Blake is leaving her role at the Murdoch paper to join the website as their new UK investigations editor. She is one of a number of Fleet Street journalists to recently leave their jobs at national papers to work for the growing website.

      As one pair of winners were on the payroll of event sponsor Private Eye, Mr S wondered if there were any blurred lines when it came to picking the victors? However, Hislop insists that to avoid any conflict of interest he did do the honourable thing and step down as a judge.

      Written bySteerpike

      Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from London and beyond. Email tips to