The sun

In praise of Rupert Murdoch

In March last year, when the bosses of Jesus College, Cambridge, lost their legal battle for a ‘faculty’ to take down the 17th-century memorial of the college’s benefactor, Tobias Rustat, because of slavery connections, from their college chapel, they did not appeal against the verdict of the ecclesiastical court. They knew they would not have won. But, as I mentioned at the time (26 March 2022), the Church of England high-ups, angry at their own heritage law, are not giving up. The latest biannual report of the Archbishops’ Commission for Racial Justice backs attempts to change the church’s faculty jurisdiction rules and promotes the 47 recommendations of From Lament to Action,

Andrew Mitchell relives the agony of Plebgate

Andrew Mitchell, as he readily admits, was born into the British Establishment. Almost from birth, his path was marked out: prep school, public school, Cambridge, the City, parliament, the Cabinet. At every step along the way he acquired the connections that would propel him to the stratosphere. But for one extraordinary event, who knows where he might have ended up? Certainly in one of the top jobs. In other circumstances this might have been a conventional story. Posh boy goes into the City, makes loads of money and then takes time out to come and govern us. In fact this is an unusual memoir — honest, self-deprecating and rich in

The hypocrisy of Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has not, we can agree, made it his business to lighten the public mood during the pandemic. That lugubrious face was designed by nature for a downbeat message. Who can forget his injunction to ‘hug carefully’ and responsibly as lockdown eased? (Before that, his regulations meant no one got within hugging distance of anyone.) He would, he said, be hugging his parents outside: ‘I’m really looking forward to hugging you, dad, but we’ll probably do it outside and keep the ventilation going: hands, face and space’. Well! Hands, face and space weren’t quite what came to mind looking at the completely fabulous if grainy pictures in the Sun

The Sun goes down

A couple of weeks ago Ally Ross, the longtime TV critic at the Sun, was summoned to the managing editor’s office. Such confrontations normally involve expenses. At the Daily Express in the 1950s one Middle East correspondent submitted his — one camel: £125. The narrow-eyed managing editor pointed out that if the camel was bought, it must have been sold, and they would be grateful if the claim was adjusted. Another form turned up 30 minutes later — burying a dead camel: £200. This conversation with Ally was not about money. It was much more serious. It was solemnly explained to him that he had used the word ‘woke’ in

The tabloid art of the ‘knobbly monster’

Here be monsters, knobbly monsters. A ‘knobbly monster’ is tabloid newsroom slang for that tricky second reference in copy to your subject when you’ve already used the obvious or only word for it. The term originated, so the story goes, in the late nineties or early 2000s when a quite possibly well-refreshed Sun hack was working on a sensational account of a fatal crocodile attack. By his fourth or fifth paragraph he was groping for an alternative way of describing his deadly protagonist. He settled on describing it as ‘a knobbly monster’. And a legend was born. The golden greats from the high period of the oeuvre include: Advent calendars:

The Sun sets on toxic masculinity

The Sun newspaper has been on an interesting journey in recent years, ditching its page three girls, drawing up a diversity style guide and launching its ‘Green Team: Road to COP26’ coverage replete with eco badges for staff. Last week, the once freedom loving Sun even declared itself comfortable with the idea of vaccine passports in pubs. Now the paper has toxic masculinity in its sights. Hacks across the Murdoch titles in London Bridge have been invited to a News UK debate tomorrow ‘how we unpick the toxicity of sexually aggressive male behaviour and redefine masculinity to support women’s rights and freedoms.’ Titled: ‘HUDDLE: Redefining Masculinity – News UK Panel Discussion’ the

The real Rupert Murdoch, by Kelvin MacKenzie

For more than four decades I have been around Rupert Murdoch. In that time he employed me in both London and New York, invested in my business ideas and ultimately fired me. It was always rock ’n’ roll around Rupert and that’s the way I liked it. So you would have thought that when the BBC made its current three-part documentary on him, it might have come to me for my views. Oh no. I presume it didn’t want to take the risk I might say something warm and supportive. It did, however, film Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun’s political columnist, for hours on end. He was warm and supportive. But

A fine, even rather noble drama: BBC1’s The Salisbury Poisonings reviewed

This week, BBC1 brought us a three-part dramatisation of an ‘unprecedented crisis’ in recent British life. Among other things, it featured a lockdown, an extensive tracking and tracing programme, much heroism from people on the front line, and much confusion among scientists as to how to provide the facts when they didn’t really know them. The Salisbury Poisonings (Sunday–Tuesday) was presumably made well before you-know-what. Yet watching the programme in the current circumstances, it wasn’t easy to decide whether the timing was good or bad luck for the makers. The obvious parallels did lend a haunting, drone-note resonance to proceedings. On the other hand, they sometimes threatened to overshadow what