Less charm, more offensive: Conrad Black says first week back has gone perfectly
The disgraced former media mogul has no regrets over his colourful and venomous outbursts, he tells Tom Peck
It was the type of charm offensive the British media likes best – bilious, controversial, and highly quotable. So at the end of a week in which Lord Black of Crossharbour, in attempting to shift copies of his memoir, called Ian Hislop a banana, Sky News's Adam Boulton a jackass, and threatened to punch Jeremy Paxman's face in, how does the former media mogul, convicted fraudster and peer of the realm think it all went?
"Pretty well," he said, in an interview with The Independent. "It has been quite extensive and most of it has been perfectly civil. There's been a good deal of attention focused on the few occasions when the questions were quite provoking and I responded in an escalated way. That has probably received more attention that it deserved. Whether it was done civilly or in a more abrasive way, I think I got my point across and I'm perfectly satisfied."
What has provoked Lord Black's most enjoyably venomous outbursts is the assertion that – having been jailed in the US for fraud and for obstruction of justice in 2007 – he is a guilty man. While most of the more serious charges brought against him have since been quashed or overturned, two remain on his record. "That is one of the lesser inconveniences of this ghastly persecution that I endured for nine years," he said. "You have to put it into context of someone who is completely innocent of all the charges against them, and did get rid of all the charges, until some of them rather spuriously were retrieved by self-serving judges." It is a well-worn line.
"There are some people whose opinion I value and respect and it would be very bothersome if I forfeited their respect. But the general public? I'm not preoccupied with the opinions of others."
Since May this year Lord Black has been a free man, residing in his native Canada on a year-long permit, which is likely to be extended. He still, as far as he is concerned, has a "perfect right" to sit in the House of Lords, and would like to do so again. "If I think I am qualified to say something, and if it is not going to lead to an irritating and distracting controversy, but I'm not going to force my way in. I don't want to embarrass any of their lordships – but eventually maybe."
London society has, he says, welcomed him back. His incarceration has cost him "a few friends" but not many. "It has been like olden times. Very fine dinners, sparkling conversations, fine evenings every night I've been here. "
His wife, the journalist Barbara Amiel, has not come with him. "Because Elton John and David Furnish have been such loyal friends to us, she wanted to go to David's birthday in Los Angeles. She has also became quite a dog enthusiast, and she doesn't like to be away from the dogs for very long."
The former owner of The Daily Telegraph hasn't picked up a newspaper in the time he's been here. "I've only looked at the articles that have involved me. I haven't seen The Daily Telegraph for 10 years."
In his own words: Black on the media
To Paxman: "You are priggish, gullible, British fool... I'm proud of being able to endure a discussion like this without getting up and smashing your face in."
To Adam Boulton: "What's your name again?.... Stop being a jackass."
On the press: "In my consideration, while there are many individual exceptions, the London media are the lowest mutation of human life I have ever encountered."
On US justice: "The whole system is a fraudulent, fascistic conveyor belt to the corrupt prison system."
On Rupert Murdoch "He's a psychopath ... like Stalin, except that he doesn't kill people. I'm not suggesting he's a homicidal psychopath – he just severs people out of his life like that. I have great admiration for what he's achieved but he's a terrible man."
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