Andrew Neil takes on `The European'
Monday 26 January 1998
19 January, 6.30pm
Last week anyone with a pressed suit and a chequered past in publishing was standing around the Terrace Room of the Dorchester, chucking back gratis champagne and swapping redundancy stories with their fellow suities. Sure, some of the suits were the leftover spoils from working on tabloid papers during the Eighties and were therefore out of fashion, but they, like their occupants, were once worth a great deal of money and they were keen that we didn't forget it.
The party, disgraced ex-Express deputy Ian Monk's last sortie into PR before creeping back to newsprint, was being held to relaunch The European, again. The Old European, once a three-section broadsheet newspaper (plus supplement) owned by Capt Bob Maxwell, was now The New European, a supplement (minus three-section broadsheet paper) owned by the Barclay Brothers.
Editor-in-chief Andrew Neil explained that he planned to take on The Economist and The International Herald Tribune. Or as one contributor put it, "produce a 75p supplement with dental room aspirations and less colour pictures than Punch". Peter Mandelson (Nineties suit, Eighties attitude) mingled with Eve Pollard (Eighties suit, bizarre attitude) in a bid to confirm that they were members of what Andrew Neil described as the "Pan Continental Elite." John Redwood (unmentionable suit, bad attitude) criss-crossed the room promoting his forthcoming book and assuring everyone he still had little time for Europe. He had come to the right party: a cursory glance around the room revealed Eurosceptics 32, Europeans 0, Asian babes 2.
The Barclays were nowhere to be seen. They contented themselves with their fireside in Monte Carlo and the bill, which included flying the first edition over to the Riviera before it reached the news-stands. In their bid for global print domination, they are keen to keep a low profile, and, as one insider suggested, a low print run.
"In a remarkable publishing coup," the insider revealed, " they have employed Andrew Neil, the editorial equivalent of a supermarket giant, to run a corner shop. They think that any vision for Europe shouldn't take more than 64 pages once a week to explain."
So what is the Brothers' 64-page message for Europe? Tim Walker, the first diary editor on The Old European, suggested he knew the answer and it was simple.
He recounted that after the tragic loss (sic) of Capt Bob, the Barclays bought the then three-section-plus-supplement newspaper. "Shortly afterwards they shared with us their message for Europe: cold baths. A directive came down that the brothers believed they owed all their success to the fact that they took cold baths every day: ergo we had to run weekly features about the benefits of cold baths. If a story had a cold bath in then it was in."
And did it work? Did readers across the multicultural, multilingual continent unite around this one simple theme?
"Umm, no, actually. I think we stopped that campaign shortly after a reader contacted us to say that the daily diet of cold submersions had given her husband a heart attack."
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