A perfect 10?
The Prime Minister's showbiz guests included a shooting-star journalist . And her partner went too. By Glenda Cooper
Monday 04 August 1997
Who's that with Rebekah Wade? might have wondered the great and goodish members of Women in Journalism, liberal feminists from the broadsheets.
Anyway, he's there because he's Ross Kemp, famous soap star and so someone the Prime Minister wants to be associated with. And she's there because she's his partner?
Well yes, and no. She's there because she's the deputy editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World. So the Prime Minister wants to be associated with her, too. This is NEW Labour, remember. And anyway, she's rather NEW News of the World. After all, she's also a founder member of Women in Journalism, which campaigns to improve women's position in the business and journalism's attitude to women.
When the News of the World meets Women in Journalism you would expect them both to make their excuses and leave. Since when were deputy editors of the News of the World big cheeses in Women in Journalism? Since Rebekah Wade, that's when. And since when were women in their twenties (she's 28 now) deputy editor of the News of the World? Since Rebekah Wade, that's when.
How did she get so far so fast? And how much is she resented? Not much, it appears. On the contrary, people on all sides seem ready to fall over themselves to praise her.
She is described as warm and very feminine, though she has risen swiftly in a world where toughness is a prerequisite. Her manner is open but she is also said to be very controlled. "I don't think she ever opens her mouth without knowing exactly what she is going to say," says one acquaintance.
"She looks frail and feminine but I would imagine she has got more balls than the majority of men," says Liz Simpson, editor of the business magazine Success Now. "She lives, eats and breathes journalism."
"She is the sort of woman who is so together that she does not use her femininity in any way," says Simpson. "There are women who use their sexuality to get what they want and I never feel they are totally at ease. That is not the impression Rebekah gives."
Wade's rise has been dramatic since she left the Messenger group and joined the News of the World magazine at the age of 20.
There she became editor, moved onto the main paper as a reporter and was picked by Piers Morgan, then NoW editor, to take over the features editor job when it became vacant.
"Rebekah was very hardworking, pretty ambitious. She was a very good journalist, very tenacious," says Morgan. "She was involved in some of the biggest stories the NoW was carrying at that time - Bienvenida Buck, Alan Clarke, James Hewitt."
She did take some flak when she first went along to Women in Journalism, says Ginny Dougary, author of The Executive Tart and other Myths, but she was also strong in standing up for tabloid values. "When she first came to Women in Journalism she was very funny about the attitude of the blokes on the paper who were in their 30s but were talking in this old colonel language `I suppose you're all going to be burning your bras are you?' - that sort of thing. I think she was very bold and brave."
"Tabloids are not an easy environment," says Georgina Henry, deputy editor of The Guardian, who also knows Wade through WIJ. "You have to be very tough and stand up for yourself. It's not the sort of New Men place."
Wade herself is proud of the fact that the first sponsorship that WIJ got was from News International after she persuaded the board it would be a good thing. And while others may say that working for tabloids is difficult, she sees it rather differently. More women have reached higher positions on tabloids than on broadsheets, which are all still in the grip of Oxford and Cambridge cliques.
For someone who has risen swiftly through the ranks of bitchy tabloid journalism it is remarkably difficult to get anyone to say a bad - or at least unkind - word about her. Her most vulnerable area is her marriage to Ross Kemp, who as one of the most popular members of EastEnders is forever in the limelight.
Her relationship with Kemp "is a source of constant amusement" in the office, says Morgan, and certainly Wade tries to keep her relationship out of the public eye - going in through the back door at film premieres to avoid being photographed with him. She agreed to go to Downing Street with him because they had both been invited separately.
"I think she would take the view that you can't be hypocritical about these things," says Georgina Henry. "If you put yourself in the limelight you're up for grabs. She tries to stay out of the limelight".
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