Richard Ingrams' Week: An image of evil that the public will never forget

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The Independent Online

What a gift is Gary Glitter to the tabloids during the silly season. From a gutter press point of view, the trouble with so many paedophiles is that they don't look the part. In too many cases, they may appear insignificant or even quite respectable.

Contrast the pictures of Glitter with his wispy little beard, shiny white dentures and sinister smile. Here at last is a paedophile who looks really evil. A paedophile worthy of the front page – if necessary for several days in succession. A cross between Gollum and the late Ho Chi Minh.

Whether he likes it or not, Glitter can be sure of press publicity for years to come. The same sort of thing happened with the late Moors murderer Myra Hindley.

The public might well have forgotten all about her had it not been for a particularly striking black and white photograph of her looking like something out of a horror movie. Whenever the press felt the need to give its readers a nasty fright, it would dig out that scary picture of Myra. And when Lord Longford took it upon himself to campaign for her release, that was enough to ensure that she would remain in prison for the rest of her days.

Battle for the news stands

In Monday's Independent, the media pundit Stephen Glover made an interesting point in drawing attention to the fact that, while most newspaper circulations are on the decline, the same conditions don't necessarily seem to apply in the magazine world.

It is true that the so-called lads' magazines, recently blamed by Tory education spokesman Michael Gove for all the inadequacies of the nation's youth, have recently registered some catastrophic drops in circulation. And it's not only the likes of Gove who will be pleased to hear the news.

But meanwhile, what are called general interest magazines are doing very well, thank you. And the fewer concessions they make to the marketing man, the better they seem to do. Stephen Glover was kind enough in this context to make special mention of my own magazine The Oldie, which has registered a 15 per cent year-on-year increase in sales.

What is worth mentioning is that such increases will almost all be made in subscription copies. Small magazines like mine still face enormous difficulties in getting a display on the news stands.

And the reason for that is the monopoly position of WH Smith which controls the bulk of the wholesale and retail trade. Smith owns most of the outlets at airports and railway stations and nowadays it expects to be paid before it will put a magazine on to its shelves. Small businesses cannot afford to pay the kind of sums demanded.

The Oldie has now been going for 16 years and has achieved a record circulation of 28,000. But you still won't be able to buy it on Paddington station.

* It may seem strange to old-fashioned types that a man who has run Kwik-Fit and Clarks shoes should be given responsibility for Transport for London, but that's the way things work nowadays. I remember not so long ago when the Underground was run by a man called Sir Keith Bright who had made his name in the biscuit business.

Tim Parker of Clarks shoes fame was brought in to take over Transport for London by the mayor Boris Johnson. And there was the usual talk in the press about how London could well do with a big businessman to sort things out. As so often with these stories, it turned out that Parker's main claim to fame was that he had sacked large numbers of people in his previous spheres of employment. This is called "taking out costs" or bringing about "cultural change".

Anyway, it now appears that Parker does not fancy the London job after all and has resigned. It is said that there was disagreement with Boris Johnson over which of the two would have the final say. Boris seems to have thought that a former not very good editor of The Spectator like himself was better qualified to run London than someone more at home in the world of shoes and taking out costs.

But it doesn't say much for either of them that they haven't worked out beforehand how they were going to run the show – before, that is, Parker ever signed on in the first place.

Boris has now lost two of his top aides in quick succession. But never mind. We are told that there are some very experienced local politicians on hand to advise him in future. One of those most frequently mentioned in this context is Sir Simon Milton, generally spoken of as a safe pair of hands. Sir Simon's experience of local government dates from his time as a lieutenant of the infamous Dame Shirley Porter on Westminster City Council. But that was a long time ago and we have all moved on since then.

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