Private Eye used to call The Daily Telegraph the "Daily Torygraph". It was not an unfair description. When I was a leader writer on the newspaper 25 years ago, one would sometimes find Tory ministers such as Willie Whitelaw or Jim Prior chewing the cud with the editor, Bill Deedes, over a glass of whisky. There have been occasional differences over the years - the Telegraph was not very keen on Ted Heath around 1974 - but by and large the relationship has been harmonious.
Not any longer. The Cam-eroons regard the Telegraph as the least sympathetic member of the right-wing press. Relations with the Daily Mail are, if not ecstatic, at least cordial. The Murdoch-owned Sun and Times have been cosying up to the Cameroons recently, even though they still support New Labour. But The Daily Telegraph, which used to be so loyal to the Tories that no one spent much time wondering how to butter it up, is regarded as unsupportive.
How could this be? One answer is Simon Heffer, who lays into David Cameron almost every time he sits down at his computer. To have such a man throw rotten cabbages at them at regular intervals from the platform of The Daily Telegraph is an entirely new experience for the Tories. Last week, when Lord Tebbit was suggesting at a Tory fringe meeting in Bournemouth that taxes should be cut, and that Britain should leave the European Union, there was a cross-looking, carrot-haired figure smouldering by his side. That's Heffer.
As I have mentioned before, he is close to my new hero Murdoch MacLennan, chief executive of the Telegraph Group. He has also become a rather unlikely pal of Guy Black, the man who handles Mr MacLennan's PR. However, the editor of The Daily Telegraph, who is rather unkindly known by staff as "Grandpa Bryant", is less of a fan of Mr Heffer's. In fact, John Bryant has been resisting a plan to make Heffer deputy editor (comment). That would be tantamount to having a political commissar foisted on you in post-revolutionary Russia.
The mild and reasonable Mr Bryant is a natural Cameroon, and one may therefore wonder why relations between the Tories and The Daily Telegraph are so poor. The answer, to adapt David Cameron's three letters NHS, is these three words: MacLennan, Heffer and Black. Not surprisingly, the Cameroons are a little perplexed. They are unsure whose hand - or hands - are on the tiller. At a party given by the Tory Party leader at Bournemouth last week in honour of the American presidential hopeful Senator John McCain, Rupert Murdoch's News International and the Daily Mail were well represented, but there was no senior figure from The Daily Telegraph.
The Cameroons are also appalled by Daniel Hannan, a brilliant if slightly wild Eurosceptic Tory MEP who pens occasional leaders for The Daily Telegraph. Mr Hannan writes things about the Tories which, if they came from his own mouth, might lead to his immediate defenestration, if not evisceration, at the hands of vengeful Cameroons.
Mr Bryant should not be wholly underestimated. He pursues his goals quietly and determinedly. Last week, The Daily Telegraph's leader column was quite nice about Mr Cameron's speech, which had been calculated to enrage the Tory right. If Mr Bryant manages to see off the plan to appoint Mr Heffer to the post of deputy editor (comment), he may continue to burn a slightly crumbling candle for Mr Cameron.
There are intriguing reports that Mr Cameron recently paid a visit to the Channel Island fortress where Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay reside. Though they are owners of the Telegraph newspapers, we know, of course, that they do not try to exert any influence over their editorial policy. Let us, however, express the wish that Mr Cameron did not find his visit a complete waste of time.
Sheridan's chance to put his money where his mouth is
Tommy Sheridan, the former Scottish Socialist Party leader, has accused his former close allies of conspiring with MI5 and Rupert Murdoch to fake a video that seems to show him confessing to having visited a "swingers" bar. Mr Sheridan recently won £200,000 in a defamation case against the Murdoch-owned News of the World. The paper had suggested that he had got up to the most amazing sexual shenanigans.
One can't help admiring Mr Sheridan a little for coming out fighting in this way. In similar circumstances some of us might be tempted to put up the white flag. But brave words alone are not enough.
If Mr Sheridan is so sure of himself, why does he not sue the News of the World again? He says that no law firm will work for him on a "no win, no fee" basis, but he has just won damages of £200,000, and his good name is on the line.
If he does not sue, having sued before, people may wonder why he is not prepared to put his money where his mouth is.
Thanks, Alan - but those Berliner numbers still don't add up
My piece in last week's column about The Guardian's fortunes after a year of the Berliner format has drawn forth two pained e-mails from the newspaper's editor, Alan Rusbridger.
His main point is that The Guardian's printing contract in West Ferry was due to come to an end within three years, and it was going to have to find new arrangements. The Guardian Media Group considered contract printing, acquiring new conventional presses, or buying presses that were capable of printing a revolutionary new shape that would give The Guardian editorial distinction. Any of these three approaches would have been almost equally costly over a 15-year period, though the Berliner option was calculated to be slightly cheaper.
Can this really be true? Mr Rusbridger evidently believes that it is. Even if he is wrong in this, he may well be correct in suggesting that investing £80m in new presses that should last for 15 years is not in fact an enormous outlay. Perhaps one is too ready to find fault with The Guardian as a result of its occasional propensity to be rather pleased with itself.
However, I do note that Mr Rusbridger does not take issue with the key point that I made - that in September The Guardian's circulation, once the audited figures are known, will probably turn out to be fractionally lower than it was in September 2003, before either The Independent or The Times went tabloid. Yet since that time, on the basis of the still unaudited figures for September this year, the sales of the new tabloid Independent have risen by about 20 per cent, while those of the tabloid Times have gone up by not far short of 10 per cent.
Is that not very slightly disappointing for The Guardian?Reuse content