Stephen Glover on the Press

Triumph in adversity: How Ken and Veronica patched things up
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The Independent Online

In media terms this rapprochement is as surprising and significant as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Whether it will last any longer remains to be seen. The enmity dates back three years. When Veronica Wadley was made the Standard's editor, Ken's office sent off a note suggesting lunch. He waited and he waited and he waited. Ms Wadley, who admittedly is no great luncher, could not find the time for the great Ken. Then, a few weeks later, the Standard accused the Mayor of a drunken attack on his partner and her friend at a late-night party. Mr Livingstone denied the charges, which were never substantiated. A state of war now existed between the two parties.

Ms Wadley should be commended for her show of independence. On the other hand, she had made a powerful enemy. Mr Livingstone characterised the Standard as nasty and right-wing, and attacked it whenever he could. He befriended Richard Desmond, the owner of the Express Group, who said that he wanted to launch a London newspaper to compete with the Standard as well as Metro, a free newspaper also published by DMGT.

Hostilities between Mr Livingstone and Ms Wadley reached their peak at the beginning of this year. Writing in The Spectator magazine in January, the editor of the Standard criticised Ken for his friendship with Mr Desmond (a controversial figure because his empire is built on pornographic magazines) and also accused him of wasting money on The Londoner. This is a monthly publication liable to give Ken a good write-up that is funded by the taxpayer and happens to be printed by Mr Desmond. Ken struck back the following month when he likened one of the Standard's reporters, who is Jewish, to a concentration camp guard. He also said some very rude things about the Daily Mail, the Standard's sister newspaper, for which, I should remind readers, I write a column.

How can it be that Ken and Veronica, who only a few months ago were hurling abuse at each other, should have made up? From Mr Livingstone's point of view, being at loggerheads with the Standard did him no favours as a politician. After all, he had ventured to make an overture to Ms Wadley in the first place that had been rebuffed. In the end, it did not suit him to have so powerful an enemy. He will doubtless have been heartened by the sympathetic coverage he has received over the past few days both as a result of his successful championing of the Olympics (which the Standard, despite early misgivings, now whole-heartedly supports) and his response to the bombings. When it emerged last week that he was receiving a generous 15 per cent pay rise, the Standard managed to choke back any justifiable outrage it may have felt.

As for Ms Wadley, she may have felt there was no mileage in perpetuating a feud that had in some ways got out of hand. Mr Livingstone had not merely blackened the Standard and the Daily Mail. He had also threatened their commercial interests by criticising the arrangement by which the free paper Metro had exclusive distribution rights in London's railway and underground stations. Following a two year investigation by the Office of Fair Trading, DMGT agreed in April to give up its rights to the afternoon and evening slots, opening up an opportunity for rival publishers such as Mr Desmond and Rupert Murdoch to launch their own free titles in London. However, DMGT and Metro maintain exclusive rights to the crucial morning slot, which did not please Mr Livingstone. The Mayor of London was reported as saying: "The exclusivity for morning distribution has not been lifted and we will reserve our right to press for this to be removed." It may be that in the new spirit of amity he will be persuaded that this is a right that he need not seek to exercise.

IF YOU THINK Labour's Blair and Brown camps have got up to some dirty tricks over recent years, you should try looking at what the David Davis and David Cameron factions are getting up to. This increasingly vicious fight is partly being carried out in the pages of our national newspapers. I will come back to this theme in a few weeks.

Meanwhile there has been a small hitch in the relations between the David Davis camp and The Daily Telegraph that appears to have been dealt with. Four weeks ago, Charles Moore, a former editor of the Telegraph and now a columnist on the paper, wrote something that annoyed Derek Conway, who is one of Mr Davis's leading cheerleaders. According to Mr Moore, "with the brutality acquired from years of forcing people to vote for the Maastricht Treaty" Mr Conway "had been threatening MPs that if they do not hurry along and sign up for Mr Davis they will not get any jobs". This did not go down at all well with Mr Conway, who wanted the Telegraph to put matters straight.

However, it now seems that a letter from Martin Newland, the paper's editor, to Mr Conway has now been judged sufficient. The Telegraph has not yet declared for Mr Davis. There is a group on the paper which prefers Mr Cameron. The last thing that the Davis camp wants at this delicate stage is a bust-up with The Daily Telegraph, whose supports it needs. But will it get it? Probably, but it is not yet certain.

scmgox@aol.com

Is Thomson eyeing global domination for his Times?

Not many people appear to have noticed that The Times has launched an international edition. Previously the British version of The Times has circulated in Europe.

Since 4 July an international edition has been available in continental Europe with a slightly different front page and its own selection of articles from the domestic edition. It even has its own editor, John Mair, formerly editor of the Scottish edition of The Times. Some 30,000 copies will be printed daily in three print sites in continental Europe.

This is probably no more than an attempt to sell a few thousand extra copies in Europe, which will give a small boost to the newspaper's overall ABC circulation figures. And yet one could not help being struck by a somewhat grandiose statement by Robert Thomson, editor of The Times, in an official press release.

After declaring that The Times has "for centuries been the newspaper by which all newspapers around the world are judged," he said that "the new international edition will ensure that we are the dominant global title."

Presumably he just got carried away, but the thought did flit through my mind that there might be more to this than meets the eye.

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