The appointment of Rebekah Wade as the editor of the Sun has given rise to much baseless speculation. It has been suggested that she may swing the paper behind the euro. We are told she may ditch Page Three girls, to whom she is said to have a feminist aversion. She is, says my esteemed colleague Roy Campbell-Greenslade in the Guardian, a former young Tory who may be 'ready to cut the umbilical cord with Downing Street' and support Iain Duncan Smith or whoever may succeed him.
All these theories ignore a simple fact. It is Rupert Murdoch, not Rebekah Wade, who will determine the editorial policy and future political allegiances of the Sun. I don't doubt that she will have a say at the margins, but she is not going to be allowed to do what Mr Murdoch does not want her to. If Mr Murdoch remains against the euro, so does the Sun. It's as simple as that. Even if she wanted to get rid of Page Three girls - which I rather doubt - Mr Murdoch and the management of News International would not let her do so. The recent success of the Daily Star, which has appreciably increased its quotient of tit'n'bum, and seen its sales rise by some 17 per cent in the process, guarantees the longevity of Page Three girls.
In any case, I am sceptical of Roy Campbell-Greenslade's characterisation of Rebekah as a sort of closet Tory who has recently fallen out with Cherie Blair and Alastair Campbell. (According to the Daily Mail's Ephraim Hardcastle column, Mr Campbell and his partner, Fiona Millar, were guests recently at a party Rebekah and her husband, the actor Ross Kemp, threw at their Battersea house.) Twenty years ago Rebekah would probably have been a Thatcherite, as I believe Roy may have been. But now she is not going to support the lost cause that is Toryism, any more than Rupert Murdoch is going to. Rebekah wants to be on good terms with the people who are running the only show in town. When negative equity has built up to gargantuan proportions and the NHS is crumbling before our eyes, when New Labour is literally mired in corruption, when the British people have finally tired of the incompetents and sleazeballs - why, Mr Murdoch, with Ms Wade in his wake, may then turn to the Tories if they are still there to turn to.
So don't expect too many imminent upheavals from Ms Wade. It is said that she is wittier than her predecessor, David Yelland, which may not be difficult. We will see. She will be more populist, if her campaign for 'Sarah's Law' while editor of the News of the World is anything to go by, when her readers felt encouraged to hound paedophiles. Let's hope that she does not try to maintain such a low profile as editor of the Sun. Even when Portsmouth was on fire, and the crazed mob had mistaken a paediatrician for a paedophile, Ms Wade stayed in her tent and allowed a chap called Stuart Kuttner to speak for her. It is said that she values her privacy and that of her husband, who is famous in some quarters.
What ghastly hypocrites we journalists are. By my book, the editor of a national newspaper who sends mobs rampaging through British cities should be held to account as though she were a politician. An editor who publishes snatched photographs of celebrities should not object when her own celebrity husband is photographed rubbing Ambre Solaire into his tummy. Albeit with sadly limited resources, this column hereby announces a policy of maximum engagement in the public and private affairs of the new editor of the Sun.
Is Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, unwittingly employing a Republican who may have links to the IRA? Last year the group bought and re-launched the Dublin-based newspaper Ireland on Sunday. It was refashioned so as to look remarkably like the Daily Mail. New journalists were taken on. Among them was an investigative reporter of some distinction called Frank Connolly, who had previously worked on the Sunday Business Post.
In Irish terms, Mr Connolly would be described as green. He has produced a sympathetic film of Martin McGuinness. None of this makes him remotely unusual. What marks him out are allegations linking him to a suspected IRA operation in Colombia. In August 2001 three IRA suspects were arrested in Colombia and charged with training Farc terrorist guerrillas. The men are now on trial in Bogota. One of them is Niall Connolly, brother of Frank.
Last July the Sunday Independent (owned by Tony O'Reilly, proprietor of our own Independent) ran a story which alleged that Frank Connolly was being investigated by the Garda on suspicion of having travelled to Colombia in April 2001 using a passport in the name of John Francis Johnston. The paper even suggested there was photographic evidence of a passport bearing Mr Connolly's picture which was taken at Bogota airport.
No charges have been brought by the Garda against Mr Connolly, who has described the allegations made against him as 'bullshit'. We must therefore assume that this is a case of misidentification. Mr Connolly has not brought an action against the Sunday Independent for defamation. It has also been reported in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times that Mr Connolly has addressed meetings aimed at raising money for his brother Niall and his two co-defendants for their trial in Bogota.
That trial has now been adjourned. Let us hope that when it resumes next month a little further light may be shed on this strange affair.
Meanwhile, as I am on the subject of newspapers and Ireland, I should mention the failure of the Guardian to review an important book about the IRA. A Secret History of the IRA by Ed Moloney, which was published last September, alleged that Gerry Adams has long been a senior and active member of the IRA, and that in 1972 he formed a special IRA unit which was responsible for the murder of nine people in the 1970s, the so-called 'Disappeared'.
The Guardian noted Mr Moloney's allegations in three news stories. It then ran a piece by a Dublin-based journalist called Niall Stanage which amounted to an elegant defence of Mr Adams. This is how Mr Stanage concluded his article: 'Adams does have blood on his hands. But he has also done more than anyone else to bring peace to Ireland.'
That, so far, is all the Guardian has produced. Is it too late to hope for a proper review of what may be the most authoritative book ever published about the IRA? So far as I can see, the Times has also failed to run a review. But the omission is perhaps more surprising in the Guardian, which has an enormous interest in Irish affairs. Two possibilities present themselves. One is that the literary editor has mislaid the book, or wrongly assumed that Mr Stanage has already dealt adequately with it. Another is that the Republican faction at the newspaper, led by deputy editor Georgina Henry, whose partner is the Republican writer Ronan Bennett, vetoed a measured review of a book which portrays their hero Gerry Adams as a terrorist.