Richard Ingrams' Week: The strange morality of this Christian tycoon

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Philip Anschutz's company AEG has been caught out making a false submission posted on the Culture Ministry's website, claiming that local religious leaders in Greenwich are all in favour of a mammoth casino inside the Millennium Dome.

Quite apart from any allegations of deception, the move must be especially embarrassing for Mr Anschutz, a man who has made no secret of his strong religious faith and his campaign to promote moral values in today's society.

While amassing a huge fortune out of oil and gas, Mr Anschutz is reported to be especially proud of his recent investment in the film of C S Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. "I expect my films," he said, "to be life-affirming and to carry moral messages."

Fortunately for Mr Anschutz, his film, which was shown all over the world, was not only life-affirming but also made him a massive profit.

Given his concern with promoting morality, Mr Anschutz would presumably disapprove of any deliberate distortion of the views of Greenwich's religious leaders.

Again, as a Christian he might also sympathise with those leaders' view of gambling as a dangerous, possibly habit-forming pastime that can ruin the lives of individuals and families. Is it possible for a huge casino to be life-affirming and carry moral messages just like his film?

Mr Anschutz is unlikely to give us an answer. Like another multimillionaire movie promoter, Howard Hughes, he is a reclusive individual who seldom talks to the press and who destroys all his e-mails and diaries. He will certainly not be coming to London to answer questions about his intentions, let alone his religious beliefs.

Don't write off junk mail

The Daily Mail has been conducting one of its vociferous front-page campaigns, this time against the growth of junk mail which, according to the paper, is threatening the lives of all of us. As the editor of a small-circulation magazine, which finds it hard to get on to the news-stand, my future depends largely on the business of selling subscriptions through the post - junk mail, in other words. So I have a personal interest in this field.

But there is a bogus hysteria about the paper's anti-junk mail campaign which ought to make everyone sceptical. Just as racists talk about the flood of immigrants and asylum-seekers swamping the country, the Mail describes a "daily cascade" or alternatively a "mountain" with the whole country being "driven to distraction" - all this about a few envelopes being shoved through the letter box.

I would argue that at a time when the future of the Post Office is threatened by the growth of e-mails, it is only junk mail that is keeping the show on the road, in many cases forcing postmen to make deliveries to remote houses which otherwise would be struck off the list. And who is to decide exactly what constitutes junk mail? It might consist of important government notices, appeals from charities, enticing catalogues - not to mention subscription offers from fascinating small-circulation magazines.

It is quite wrong that all this should be given the blanket description of junk mail, though it could be perhaps an appropriate description of the newspaper spearheading the campaign.

* Carlton TV's former PR man David Cameron is no stranger to the fending off of awkward questions from the press. Journalists who dealt with him in his earlier career remember a particularly skilled master in the art of spin. In his new position Cameron will require all his skills. His actions will be subjected to minute scrutiny.

Thus, as a member of the posh men-only St James' club White's, he found himself facing the charge of hypocrisy. On the one hand he was urging his party to select more women candidates for Parliament. On the other he was a member of an all-male club.

PR man Cameron's response was a good one. He belonged to the club, his spokesman said, only because it was a convenient place to meet up with his elderly father who happens to be the club's chairman. But unfortunately, as reported in this paper, Cameron was later spotted dining with his colleague and fellow Old Etonian Ed Llewellyn. There was no sign of the elderly club chairman Cameron Senior.

This is not the first time a Tory leader has found himself in this awkward situation. The charge of hypocrisy in the matter of clubs was also levelled against one of Cameron's predecessors Iain Duncan Smith. In 2001 IDS publicly boasted of the fact that he had refused to join the Carlton Club because it refused admission to women. But it was then revealed that he remained a member of the exclusive Beefsteak Club which was just as discriminating as the Carlton. Luckily for IDS The Daily Telegraph came to his defence, commending the Tory leader for his reforming zeal and for maintaining "the proper distance between the private and public spheres".

Cameron might like to remember this the next time he is charged with humbug.

Comments