Kelvin and the people of Liverpool


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The Independent Online

For 23 years, the former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie says he feels he has suffered unfairly for writing an offensive front page at the time of the Hillsborough disaster. Writing in The Spectator, Kelvin whimpers that he's been vilified for a simple mistake: repeating a report from a reputable news agency, whose version of events, following two inquiries and the inspection of 400,000 documents, has now been utterly discredited.

Other newspapers carried versions of the report, but Kelvin feels he has been singled out unfairly – he can't go to Liverpool, the police watch his house, he regularly receives insults and threats. It has taken an awful lot to get Kelvin to apologise – his half-hearted apology was a disgrace. It's a bit rich for pig-headed Kelvin to complain that he's being picked on, because that's how a lot of people (not just celebs) feel after Kelvin and The Sun picked on them, usually for the most spurious of reasons.

I've had a lot of experience. When I worked as a BBC executive in the late 1980s, The Sun printed a picture of me and a horse, and asked readers to decide who was uglier. A Sun columnist repeatedly printed completely inaccurate viewing figures for my work and trashed it, in spite of the BBC providing accurate data. Another columnist said he was tempted to run over me in the street.

When I worked at Live TV, Kelvin was brought in to set up a sports channel. He would roam my office, asking me which women were lesbians. When I left the company, signing a confidentiality agreement, Kelvin (bound by the same agreement) phoned journalists to trash me and regularly rubbished me in speeches. When I edited this newspaper (after running a BBC department with a budget of around £35m) he took to the stage at the Press Awards and rubbished me as an amateur. I've done nothing to warrant years of being pilloried by Kelvin, except be a smart, successful woman who finds him a bore.

So, if Kelvin can't go to Liverpool, I'm not weeping. If he was such a good journalist, why did it take 23 years to listen to the people of Liverpool?

Hornby blunder

The ugliest mascots in modern times, Wenlock and Mandeville, have turned out to be a disaster for classic toy company Hornby, who made the officially licensed versions as Olympic souvenirs.

I could not understand how a sexless blimp with one eye was considered an appropriate symbol for the Paralympics, but perhaps that's the question no one at Locog ever dared ask. Hornby makes fabulous toys - gorgeous model trains, Airfix models, Corgi and Scalextric cars – but they made a big mistake banking on Wenlock and his pal, and poor sales of merchandise this summer have wiped a third off the company's value.

Iris, the agency who devised the grisly pair, work for prestigious clients like Barclaycard, Kelloggs, Shell and Speedo, but I doubt any of these superbrands will be requesting a comical Martian as a marketing tool. Given the UK produces some of the world's top industrial designers, the mascots were an appalling advert for home-grown talent.

Joking aside

They've heard that comedy is the new rock'n'roll, and party conference season always sees a determined effort by politicians to emulate crowd-pleasing comics.

At last week's Lib Dem get-together of the party faithful, Danny Alexander, the Treasury geek who looks like a ginger chipmunk, decided to depart from his normal litany of dreary economic figures and attempted to tell feeble jokes, frantically waving his hands around like two bunches of bananas. The audience (and the hacks present) were appalled, and any applause was more in sympathy than thanks.

Then, David Cameron decided to appear on David Letterman's US talk show, because Boris had already done so. Cam looked like a cardboard Tango Man grovelling for scraps at his host's knee as Letterman towered over him behind his magisterial desk. Not good. But Obama's no better. Worried about his re-election campaign, he decided to appear on The View, with Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters. Michelle held his hand so he wasn't too frightened. I can't wait for George Osborne to sit next to me on Loose Women!

No drug talk here

It's impossible to discuss drugs calmly in this country. Channel 4 bravely devoted two nights to MDMA – pure ecstasy – and conducted an experiment in which human guinea pigs didn't know if they were taking the drug or a placebo. They slightly undermined their case by choosing actor Keith Allen as a participant – a bloke so desperate for publicity he's still going around claiming he had sex with me on my snooker table about 20 years ago (he did not).

MDMA, used in controlled circumstances under medical supervision, could help soldiers and others suffering from post-traumatic stress – but to evaluate its usefulness supervised experiments are needed, and I don't see why they shouldn't be broadcast so we can all see for ourselves.

Most parents are hypocrites about drugs. A good proportion will have taken them at some point, yet they pretend to their kids that drugs are evil. Famous people, from celebs to politicians, all take care to say they experimented with drugs but "they had an unpleasant experience" as it's still seen as career suicide. Jon Snow, who presented the show, added his own "bad trip" on his blog before the programme was broadcast.

Critics said the show promoted drug-taking, but fewer of us are users now than in 1996, when data was first recorded. One in five people aged 16-24 took drugs last year, a sizeable number, but definitely a downward trend.

Worlds apart

Plebgate continues. Andrew Mitchell, the Tory Chief Whip who allegedly swore at a policeman outside No 10, has kicked off a media trend for spotting examples of powerful super-snoots whose values are far removed from us ordinary plebs.

Last week, much was made of the £150,000 henhouse the millionaire financier Crispin Odey is building on his Gloucestershire estate, complete with classical façade, Palladian columns, hand-carved mural depicting chickens, eggs and Humpty Dumpty – and the size of a two-bed flat.

Such excess might be common in the world of high finance, but, given the Mitchell affair is still smouldering, George Osborne committed a faux pas, sneaking out of the Treasury in the middle of the afternoon, with two ministers, Ed Vaizey and Michael Gove, to sit (for free) in a swanky box at Covent Garden to enjoy Wagner's Ring Cycle, starting time 4pm, when most of us "plebs" were still toiling. No doubt all three claim they made "important contacts" at the event.