Stephen Glover: The real casualties of The Telegraph's war
Media Studies: The paper should recalibrate its attitude towards politicians, which has become excessively confrontational
Monday 03 January 2011
Will Tony Gallagher, editor of The Daily Telegraph, survive the furore created by its recent entrapment of Vince Cable? And, if he does, will the affair affect the way he edits the paper?
For the moment the matter is in the hands of the Press Complaints Commission, which has received numerous complaints. The paper will argue vigorously that its entrapment of the Business Secretary was justified on public interest grounds. It may succeed. I would have thought that its entrapments of other Lib Dem ministers by its two winsome female reporters posing as constituents may be more difficult to defend, since these "revelations" were of pretty marginal importance.
Any ruling against the Telegraph would not be good for Mr Gallagher. Whether he would survive would depend on the views of the paper's owners, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, its chairman Aidan Barclay (Sir David's son), and its chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan. Though no doubt gratified by Mr Gallagher's ability to keep the paper in the public eye, they cannot be untroubled about the controversy. Guy Black, executive director of the Telegraph who recently took the Tory whip in the Lords as a newly created life peer, is said not to be overjoyed by the turn of events.
Six editors on the daily and Sunday Telegraph have been "let go" since the Barclay brothers acquired the titles in 2004, which is something of a record, and Mr Gallagher could end up being just another statistic. That would be a pity, since he is evidently a talented news man who as deputy editor and then editor brilliantly supervised the Telegraph's coverage of the MPs' expenses scandal.
Mr Gallagher also has critics at a high level within his paper, one of whom leaked the story about Vince Cable covertly opposing Rupert Murdoch's attempt to acquire the whole of BskyB to the BBC's Robert Peston. A former Telegraph executive was allegedly also instrumental in this leak. Mr Gallagher's defenders claim a decision had been made to hold over this story to the following day because it was thought less interesting to readers than Mr Cable's remarks about David Cameron. They deny it was kept out of the paper because the Telegraph Media Group is against Mr Murdoch's takeover, and did not want Mr Cable's opposition to be made public. If such a cracking story was held over for journalistic reasons, that does not say a lot for Mr Gallagher's judgement on this occasion.
I hope and, on the whole, expect him to survive. But the paper should recalibrate its attitude towards politicians, which has become excessively confrontational. It is as though the paper regards all of them as crooks, and sees it as its duty to be in a permanent state of war with the entire tribe. It is fine to go after individual politicians who have erred, and the Telegraph has done that effectively, but I don't believe its readers will relish what sometimes looks like an almost Poujadist hatred of the entire political process. Go after the man rather than the system would be my advice to Mr Gallagher, if he survives.
Should journalists be given honours?
An item in Max Hastings' Spectator diary has stayed in my mind. Sir Max describes how he was approached by the "grand panjandrums, Jenny Abramsky and the inevitable Dennis Stevenson" of the arts and media honours scrutiny committee, their apparent object being that he should serve with them. After he had made what he thought rather politically incorrect remarks, Sir Max was told his services were no longer required.
That is a pity. Dame Jenny and Lord Stevenson can probably be described as being of the centre-left. Sir Max, though a former admirer of Tony Blair and hardly a right-wing Tory, could have brought more balance to the arts and media honours scrutiny committee. He might also have been able to secure more honours for newspaper people, which have in recent years been in short supply.
In my perfect world the honours system would be abolished, or at any rate knighthoods and life peerages would be, as they are a source of government corruption. Nor do I think that serving editors or other senior executives should accept awards. But if not very distinguished civil servants are to be showered with baubles, it is difficult to understand why distinguished editors of provincial newspapers or senior newspaper managers should be forgotten. Sooner or later someone must also remember Murdoch MacLennan, chief executive of the Telegraph Media Group, and no spring chicken.
The truth about Chris Jefferies
Chris Jefferies, a former public school teacher, has been released on police bail, but remains a suspect in the murder of Joanna Yeates. I obviously have no better idea than anyone else as to the outcome of this case. Nevertheless, I have been stuck by the overexcited coverage, particularly, though by no means only, in the tabloids. The Sun probably went furthest with its headline last Friday: "Weird, Posh, Lewd, Creepy".
As a point of fact, Mr Jefferies' blue-rinse hair and alleged love of "avant-garde" movies do not make him unusual by the standards of many teachers of English, particularly in public schools. They tend not to resemble bank clerks either in outlook or appearance, and I dare say The Sun would be shocked to its foundations were it to undertake a wider survey.
By the way, I was surprised to hear the headmaster of Clifton College, Mark Moore, speaking on the radio. He said that Mr Jefferies had taught for "some years" at Clifton, though few would remember him because he left the school in 2001. According to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Jefferies was a teacher at Clifton for 30 years. Nor is 2001 very long ago in the memory of a proud institution. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Mr Moore was rather unworthily trying to put as much distance as possible between Mr Jefferies and the school he served.
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