It is not exactly a loss of innocence, but the world is a very different place today from the one we inhabited at the start of summer.
The start of the football season (I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t think it comes around quickly enough!) coincides with a new phase of the moon, and I found myself yesterday reflecting on some of the more unexpected changes to our landscape. For instance, I was musing on this question: is Britain a better or worse place without the News of the World? Clearly, for the celebrities and their publicists who can take telephone calls on Saturday afternoons without worrying that some scandalous behaviour is about to be revealed to the world, the demise of Britain’s highest-selling paper is unalloyed good news. And for those who have been “doorstepped” – when a reporter appears at your front door to challenge you in person – there will be not an ounce of sadness. (At this point, I should declare an interest: I was once doorstepped by a reporter from the News of the World. Don’t worry, I wasn’t Max Mosley’s sex slave, nor was my financial chicanery revealed by the fake Sheikh. Actually, it was a fairly innocuous inquiry that could have been settled by a telephone call. Nevertheless, it was a very unnerving experience and made me think that if I, a rough, tough newspaper editor, could be unsettled by that, an ordinary member of the public would find it deeply upsetting.) Neither can we expect those whose phones have been hacked to mourn the paper’s loss. But the fact is that – despite the impressive circulation gains by other like-minded papers – fewer people are now reading newspapers on a Sunday. And, even allowing for my partisan opinion, that’s not a good thing. Also, the News of the World was very popular with people of quality such as yourselves, who would buy it to see what was going on in Planet Celebrity. So, in the absence of this particular scandal sheet and a spirit of public service, let me tell what you might have missed yesterday: Prince Andrew frolicking (I believe that’s the word) with an unidentified young lady; Jeremy Clarkson using a “proper driver” for some of his stunts; further dispatches from the frontiers of moisturising with Shane Warne; and pictures of Brad and Angelina at Halfords in west London. So now you know. Let the week begin!