Richard Ingrams' Week: Why does the 'Express' print this bunkum?

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The Independent Online

There is only one baffling mystery about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. Why does the Daily Express, regularly every Monday, print bogus revelations on its front page suggesting her death was the result of a top-level conspiracy involving, among others, MI5 and the royals?

This week under the headline "Diana death: truth at last", the Express revealed that Diana's body had been embalmed "on the orders of panicking British officials" to disguise the fact that she was pregnant.

The week before it was reported, also on the front page, that the alcoholic chauffeur Henri Paul, whose erratic driving caused the fatal crash, "was involved in a complicated assassination plot and had a three-hour meeting with British and French spies on the night of the crash".

I cannot remember an incident of a national newspaper headlining a long series of articles which its reporters and its editor must know to be a load of bunkum. Judging from the dramatic fall in Daily Express sales in recent months, a great many readers must feel the same way.

So, why do they do it? Has the Express's proprietor, Richard Desmond, made some kind of secret arrangement with Mohamed al-Fayed, the person who has most to gain from a conspiracy story being believed? Surely money has not changed hands, when Desmond has more than enough money of his own to be getting on with.

A lesser but equally intriguing mystery is Desmond's recent appointment to the presidency of Norwood, a large charitable concern devoted to the care of children and adults with learning disabilities.

Desmond is a benefactor of Norwood but why would a respectable charity appoint as its president a man who prints obvious lies in his papers and who is well known for having made a huge fortune out of filth?

No wonder men don't want to get married

Men do jobs - women have careers. That is one of the messages you get from all the talk this week following a handful of widely publicised divorce cases.

A wife who decides not to go out to work in order to devote herself to her children is said to be sacrificing her career. The assumption is that she is involved with something much more significant than anything her husband may be up to. He is just doing a job.

The reality, of course, is that there is precious little difference between the work done by men and women. Both parties are trying to keep up with the mortgage payments.

The career/job differentiation is a small indication of the way the argument about divorce is biased in favour of women. Some commentators seem to think that this week's decision by judges has shifted things in that direction. But it has been like that for some time.

The trouble with the law is, as so often, it ignores what is the important issue and the one that causes all the bitterness. As things stand one partner in a marriage can walk away from it - the husband goes off with another woman, the wife goes off because she is bored - but still he or she can turn round and demand an equal share of their combined assets.

That is called no-fault divorce and it explains why a great many men (who tend to have more assets than their wives) are reluctant to commit themselves to marriage.

There will be even more of them after this week's judgment.

* Earlier this year the BBC broadcast the extraordinary story of how a group of children in Rochdale, Lancashire, were taken into care as a result of social services becoming convinced that satanic abuse was rife in the town. There was never the smallest bit of evidence to justify that claim.

Rochdale council, however, made no apology for what had happened and even attacked the BBC for raking over an old story. And it emerged that the two social workers responsible were still working in child care.

Such a response is now sadly typical. Last week two gay men who were allowed to foster vulnerable boys by Wakefield council were given prison sentences for abusing them. And once again there was no suggestion that the council might have been at fault.

Acting, presumably, on the dangerous principle that gay couples should have equal rights to heterosexuals when it came to fostering young boys, they were satisfied that they had done everything by the book.

The council's director for children in need, Kitty Ferns, told the press: "Although correct procedures were carried out at every stage, the service has reviewed its internal procedures to identify what lessons should be learned."

If you wanted an example of smug jargon-spouting officialdom, unwilling to admit to a terrible error and at the same time hoping to con the public into believing that nobody was to blame, you couldn't do much better than that.