Bill Hagerty on the press: Letts get it straight: this is uncalled for

THERE'S NO point, as my old dad used to say, of being the richest man in the cemetery. Not unless you're only visiting, of course. I imparted this wisdom to Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail's prolific political sketch writer, theatre critic and Jack-of-all-journalistic-trades. Earning at a rate the Royal Mint may have trouble accommodating, he chortled at my dad's mots justes - as well he might, being rich and not in the cemetery.

When the talented Letts was appointed to write theatre criticism as well as his award-winning political sketches for the Mail, there were those who scoffed. This was not because of suggestions that his knowledge of the theatre could be jotted on the back of a postage stamp while still leaving space for the Lord's Prayer, as was spitefully put about in some quarters, but more that such a punishing schedule would destroy him.

How wrong the doubters were. For a recent issue of the Mail, Letts filed 500 witty words from the Commons, a review of a play from Dublin and a long comment piece on Neil Kinnock's elevation to the peerage. If he's paid by the word, Letts may end up being able to buy Associated Newspapers and hire someone else to do the writing.

But I caution him to slow down if the result of his hyper-activity is the kind of unamusing vitriol he showered upon Kinnock. Character assassination that includes phrases such as "winking like a street walker with myxomatosis" and "ineffective, indulged, greedy, vain, dim, weak and timid" is abattoir journalism.

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