Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Monday 24 April 2017

Truth and lies

How was your weekend? Pretty bad for most of us, I suspect. The presumed eventual victory of Emmanuel Macron is a bright point but that shouldn't obscure the success of a neo-fascist candidate in running second, which means she still has a chance of becoming France's president, with all the horrific consequences that would bring.
As for the state of the so-called general election... Was there ever a more fatuous and irrelevant "policy" than Labour promising four new bank holidays to mark the saint days of the four UK nations?
However, as I don't want this blog to be an unremitting whinge, let me tell you about what cheered my weekend. I listened to the 1990 broadcast of Pravda, the play by David Hare and Howard Brenton, which is currently on iPlayer. It is a wonderfully funny but frightening tale of the takeover of a great British newspaper by a boorish, menacing South African, played magnificently by Anthony Hopkins on radio as he was when I saw the play on stage in the mid-1980s.
His character is clearly based on Rupert Murdoch, who had bought The Sun in 1969 and begun the process of dragging journalism downhill. Although Hopkins on-stage gave a performance which chillingly mirrored the voice and looming physical presence of Robert Maxwell, for whom `I then worked.
I don't suppose any of us at the time when Pravda was first performed (scooping up the Play of the Year award) would have thought what the next 30 years of `Murdoch's domination of the `British press would mean or bring. We are now about to suffer the ultimate effect - the withdrawal of this country from the European Union with the consequent catastrophic impact on our economy.
When Murdoch was giving evidence to the `Leveson inquiry he denied that he interfered in the editorial policy of his newspapers - a laughable claim (Pravda accurately portrays the behaviour of Murdoch, particularly in his early years in the UK).
There were two exceptions to his non-interference, though, he told Leveson. One was the decision on which party The Sun would support at general elections. The other was Europe.
So much of Fleet Street has been virulently anti-EU in recent years that it has been forgotten that for a long time it was The Sun which carried the banner to get us out, remorselessly and unremittingly, even when membership of the European Union was widely accepted and opposition the preserve of a lunatic fringe.
David Hare and Howard Brenton created a great piece of theatre more than 30 years ago graphically showing how Murdoch operated. Yet even they could not have foreseen what the consequences would be of leaving his power unchecked.

Footnote: If you want to know how phone hacking was encouraged and able to flourish at Murdoch titles, listen to Pravda.  It is available on iPlayer for another 22 days.

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