In the first place, in his columns in The Guardian, where he has worked for many years, Roy has shown an understanding of the IRA that is unusual in the British press. The Telegraph, of course, has traditionally championed the Unionist cause. Roy is married to an Irish woman and has a house in Donegal, where a neighbour is Pat Doherty, a former member of the IRA army council. On one occasion nearly six years ago, Roy telephoned the editor of The Observer, The Guardian's sister paper, to say that remarks made by Mr Doherty, about the IRA never disarming, had been misconstrued by the paper. Roy has been an open and unwavering critic of British policy in Northern Ireland, and has criticised The Daily Telegraph's Unionist line.
He has also been a spirited supporter of New Labour, which is hardly the Telegraph's favourite political party. In particular, he is friendly with Alastair Campbell, who was the political editor of the Daily Mirror many years ago when Roy was briefly its editor. Some of us noticed a little time ago how some of Roy's columns in The Guardian reflected with remarkable accuracy Mr Campbell's own point of view. For example, Roy appeared to identify himself very closely with Mr Campbell's complaints about the cynicism and triviality of modern journalism. It was for this reason that I began to think of Roy as Roy Campbell-Greenslade. Later, when he became a professor in media studies at City University, with a particular, if possibly inappropriate, interest in media ethics, he became Professor Roy Campbell-Greenslade.
So it is pretty amazing that the prof should have been recruited by the Telegraph after The Guardian had tired of his services as a columnist. I regret to report that the hand of Murdoch MacLennan, the chief executive of the Telegraph Group, is again discernible. Of course, I do not set much store by the widely circulating rumours that, even while he was writing for The Guardian, Mr Greenslade helped Mr MacLennan out with a couple of speeches, though perhaps, just to set the record straight, he would be good enough to deny this on the record. But it is undoubtedly the case that the two men know each other well. With characteristic generosity, Roy wrote the following passage in The Guardian just over a year ago: "There are few shrewder newspaper executives than Murdoch MacLennan, outgoing managing director of Associated Newspapers, who is the new chief executive of the Telegraph Group. He has knowledge, charm and ruthlessness, a winning combination'. There are surely some issues here that might be profitably discussed during the prof's classes on media ethics.
I gather that Mr MacLennan is complaining that I have a vendetta against him. This seems unlikely since I have never met him, and none of his actions has ever affected me. I am very happy to embrace Roy's estimation of him as an unusually fine man. I can also understand that it may come as a shock to him, after many years of highly remunerated obscurity, to find himself being written about in the public prints. But I must ask him to indulge me a little, as he has recently had a hand in several key editorial appointments at The Daily Telegraph, not least that of Professor Greenslade, and it is my duty to write about such things.
Let us accept for the purposes of this argument that Roy is a brilliant commentator, as well as a journalist of unexampled integrity. But is he the right man for The Daily Telegraph? I do not believe so. I find it difficult to believe that Mr MacLennan would have been in favour of his appointment had he been as close a student of Mr Greenslade's journalistic career as I have been. Nor would someone more in tune with what one might term The Daily Telegraph's soul have ever thought of appointing Roy. On the other hand, one can see why Mr MacLennan might regard him as a loyal admirer who will at least safeguard his interests. Needless to say, we shall be keeping a careful watch on the new media columns of Professor Roy Campbell-Greenslade.
Too close to Campbell?: the former 'Guardian' writer and 'Mirror' editor Roy Greenslade
Murdoch left playing the jilted lover over star columnist's defection
When does a right-wing columnist think it reasonable to down tools and go on strike? When he is being asked to serve out his contract by a newspaper he no longer likes.
Nearly five months ago it was announced that Richard Littlejohn was leaving The Sun, where he writes a robust twice-weekly column, for the Daily Mail, where he previously wrote a column between 1994 and 1998. Reports that his new salary would be £1,000,000 a year occasioned a good deal of wonder and envy among other Daily Mail columnists such as myself.
Time passed, and Mr Littlejohn did not arrive. It emerged that, most unusually in Fleet Street, The Sun was holding him to his contract, which expires next February. This displeased Mr Littlejohn and the Daily Mail. When it was recently announced that Simon Heffer - another robust columnist who shoots from the hip and takes no prisoners - was leaving the Mail for The Daily Telegraph, the Mail became even keener for Mr Littlejohn to come across soon. But The Sun still insisted on him serving out his contract. Mr Littlejohn went on strike, perhaps ill-advisedly, and has not written a column since 16 September. The Sun has responded by seeking an injunction barring him from writing for the Mail before February, and there will be a three-day hearing this month. Isn't this the greatest idiocy? It is standard practice in such circumstances to let a columnist depart as soon as is practicable. I can think of two reasons for The Sun letting Mr Littlejohn go. For one thing, there is no point in forcing someone to write for you whose heart is no longer in it. His columns will not be any good. For another, it is ludicrous to suppose that The Sun's circulation is going to collapse as a result of Mr Littlejohn's departure. The paper may well not lose a single reader. It should be trying to find - or create - new columnists rather than clinging on to someone who in any event is going to leave in a few months.
Surely Rebekah Wade, The Sun's editor, understands this. My guess is Rupert Murdoch, the paper's proprietor, is behind the injunction. Having lavished millions on Mr Littlejohn, he is behaving like a jilted lover. He wants Mr Littlejohn - and the Daily Mail - to suffer. In fact he is putting money into lawyers' pockets, and postponing the day when The Sun will have to face up to life without him.Reuse content