LETTER from THE EDITOR

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We thought the world had turned upside-down three weeks ago, but really, it was just a practice pirouette. The world really turned upside- down this week, when, for the first time that anyone can remember, one of the grand Tory press barons crossed the floor of the Lords to support Tony Blair's denim revolution. Not that Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and London Evening Standard as well as a large swathe of top provincial papers, would ever be seen dead in denim, let alone a Ford Galaxy.

Now, here is a new dawn if ever we saw one - enough to stir any Independent staffer to fantasy. After all, Rupert Murdoch has already half recanted by encouraging The Sun to vote Labour; perhaps he will soon feel moved to cross the metaphorical floor, apply for British citizenship and offer to fund nursery places for all by paying zillions in back tax?

Sadly, though, the splendidly independent-minded Vere Harmsworth belongs to a different class altogether to the one inhabited by Mr Murdoch. Indeed, Lord Rothermere is very confident of his place in society. When once asked which social class he would place himself in, he instantly replied: "Nobleman." It strikes me that a good New Labour policy might be for everyone to start describing themselves as noblemen (or noblepersons, if they must).

Still, perhaps he has a more noble bearing than most. Nicholas Coleridge, esteemed Conde Nast bigwig, once described Rothermere as "vaguely resembling Babar the elephant", a man who "walks, as many rich people do, in a slightly swaying way as though he has just stepped back on to dry land from a large yacht".

Never having met him (you have to be the top bod, the real one and only editor, to get invited to his famous annual shindig), I was delighted to hear the following (probably grossly embellished) tale of how he informed some of his Daily Mail staff of this week's conversion.

On Wednesday night, it appears, the noble peer hosted a Mail bash at the Savoy to honour the long and lively service given to his paper by the sharp-tongued columnist Lynda Lee Potter. At one point in the evening, a misfortunate reporter apparently encountered our noble gent, who asked what he'd been up to all day. "I've been busy at the Commons, sir," came the reply. "Well, you've been in the wrong place, then - the best story happened in the other one," Rothermere replied in lordly fashion. Whoops.

As you can see, the real editor is on holiday somewhere in France, at a place where, he tells me, the decor is like the setting for an avant- garde Italian S&M movie (I think he means that it has lots of high windows with bars and strange, clanking corridors, although I'm not quite sure how he knows about such things). That means I am left with all the fun duties, such as judging our annual Children's Story of the Year Competition, which we run jointly with Scholastic.

This has been a delightful task, not least because it has made me immensely if briefly popular with my eight-year-old daughter, who consumes Puffins at the rate of two or three a day. She gaily took over my judging duties and hurtled through all the books, then confidently presented me with her choices ordered one to five.

When I next get to see her, I'll be relieved to let her know that her favourite won - deservedly. Only I can't tell you what it is until I'm allowed to tell you; and then I promise that we'll print it in the paper.

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