Publisher pledges not to censor Patten book
Friday 27 February 1998
Macmillan will formally announce today that it is to publish East and West, after Mr Patten switched from his previous publishers HarperCollins to avoid censorship from Rupert Murdoch.
Last night Macmillan's managing director, Ian Chapman, said that he knew Mr Patten was adamant his memoirs would not be censored. "That is the basis on which we have taken the book and we are delighted to have done so," he said.
Meanwhile, there was growing speculation that Mr Patten, whose time as Governor of Hong Kong brought him into conflict with Peking, may be considering legal action against Mr Murdoch, possibly over a breach of contract.
All he would say last night was: "People have only been told half the story so far." He earlier said: "I am adamant my book will be read the way I intended it to be read."
The dispute between Mr Patten and Mr Murdoch, whose business interests in the Far East including the Star TV satellite station have long led him to placate the Chinese, emerged after the East and West editor at HarperCollins resigned after apparently being told to cut out the anti- Chinese comments.
The Independent revealed yesterday that Stuart Proffitt, highly regarded in the publishing world, left after refusing the demands of senior executives to rewrite, or else have Mr Patten rewrite, those sections. It is understood those demands came in turn from Mr Murdoch.
Mr Proffitt was yesterday unavailable for comment. It is understood he is staying away from London at his remote farmhouse in the Black Mountains on the Welsh border. It is believed he will be taking HarperCollins to an industrial tribunal following a breakdown in negotiations between the company and his lawyers.
Colleagues at HarperCollins in London knew Mr Proffitt had been suspended two weeks ago. They were informed of his departure on Wednesday by an internal memo. HarperCollins yesterday again declined to comment. The company said its chairman, Edward Bell, was not due back until later today.
The loss of Mr Patten's book will be a major blow to the company. Macmillan considers obtaining his memoirs a major coup. "It is a major project and a very important book," said Mr Chapman. "The book will be a big promotion before it is published, sometime in the autumn."
Mr Patten's departure from HarperCollins could also affect the future of other authors concerned about possible editorial interference. John Major's office declined to comment on the effect Mr Proffitt's departure would have on his plans to publish his memoirs through the imprint, but Michael Dobbs hinted that he was considering his position: "I would prefer to find out the facts first," he said.
Lord Archer described his relationship with Mr Proffitt as "very close", but maintained that he would be staying put.
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