Major and Murdoch - Will he pull the book? Will he see the story? Will he get the joke?

Share
Related Topics
IT HAS BEEN a very tense weekend for me. I haven't mentioned this before, but I have spent a lot of time recently working with John Major on his forthcoming autobiography (I do the jokes, he does the owning up and apologising ) and so when this HarperCollins fuss broke, I naturally wondered if my cushy little number had come to an end.

Mark you, the news reports did say that many leading writers were thinking of leaving HarperCollins in protest against Murdoch's high-handedness, and that obviously wouldn't include John Major, who has never been thought of as a writer of any kind. On the other hand, publishers always think it's a great coup to secure the memoirs of the outgoing prime minister. (Not many people realise that the reason Rupert Murdoch is toadying up to Tony Blair, and vice versa, is so that HarperCollins can get first bite at the Blair autobiography after he leaves Downing Street. Oh, yes, old Rupert plans way ahead.) So Major's book remains a big catch for Murdoch.

So I didn't want John Major withdrawing from the big league.

Especially if I was still working with him.

Anyway, I gave him a ring at the weekend to see how the land lay. Mr Major is still understandably cautious about being rung up, but we have a code we use to identify each other. It goes like this.

Major: Hello, Prime Minister speaking...

Me: Not any more, I'm afraid, sir...

Major: My goodness, no, you're right!

We chatted about this and that (cricket, mostly ) and then I popped the big question.

"So, what about this HarperCollins business, then?"

"Well," said the ex-premier, "thanks for the last lot of jokes, though I'm afraid I didn't quite understand that one about Norman Lamont and the one-legged nun. Could you explain it again?"

"I'm not really talking about the writing of our book, sir. I was thinking about this fuss about Chris Patten and Rupert Murdoch."

"What fuss ?"

"It was in all the papers."

"Not in my paper."

Of course, I remembered then that Mr Major gets The Times. So I found myself having to explain the whole thing to Mr Major, about how his friend Chris had had his book chucked out by Murdoch's company because it was very rude about the Chinese top brass with whom Mr Murdoch hopes to deal, and how some writers were threatening to leave HarperCollins in sympathy.

"So you see, sir," I said, "this puts you in a situation of some delicacy."

"I see," said Mr Major. "You mean, I will now have to go through my book taking out all rude remarks about the Chinese?"

"Not really," I said. "What it means is that you may have to reconsider your position."

"Oh, come on!" said Mr Major. "When I was in politics, that was shorthand for thinking about resigning!"

"That's what I'm talking about."

"Resigning from what?"

Patiently I explained that some people might expect him to take his book away from HarperCollins, partly in protest against Murdoch's dictatorship, partly in sympathy with his old chum Chris and partly in protest against the presence of an illiterate capital C in the middle of the word HarperCollins.

"Why should I resign?" said Mr Major hotly. "I have done nothing wrong! I do not see this as a resigning matter!"

"With respect, sir," I said, "you're behaving as if you were still in charge. Nobody is asking you to resign as an admission of failure. But there are other kinds of resignation besides resignation at the top. There might be pressure on you to resign in protest against what the man in charge is doing. Namely, Mr Rupert Murdoch. Or, as he is known inside the Vatican, Sir Rupert Murdoch."

There was a silence at this. I could have bit my lip. I should know better by now than to try jokes on Mr Major.

"I'll ring you back on this one," he said, and rang off.

When he does come back to me, I'll try testing his moral stance by asking him if he intends to resign from the MCC over their refusal to admit women, which he has publicly condemned. I'll let you know which way he jumps.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas