The agreeable world of Wallace Arnold: A word or two about those newspaper bids

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The Independent Online
AS CO-FOUNDER of the Independent, chairman of the board of directors, author of a scholarly history, Arnold's Triumph: The Independent's First Five Years (Weidenfeld, pounds 17.50), and senior columnist on the Independent on Sunday, I think that even the most curmudgeonly of my confreres would grant I had earned the right to state where I stand on the vexed issue of the future of these two excellent newspapers. (Go on then, if you must - Ed.)

Much as one must admire the pluck of Mr O'Reilly, and much as one has enjoyed many a steaming mug of hot Irish soup - mulligatawny and so forth - I think one may safely, in all kindness, discount him as un homme serieux. He is, alas, not a man with the weight of a Murdoch or a Black (capital 'B', please note, copytaker). If permission to control the newspaper had been requested from either of those two estimable gents, I would have had no hesitation in nodding it through, but few of us would wish to surrender our high standards to a man whose hands are steeped in Heinz Alphabetti Spaghetti. I prefer to link hands with our own Mr Whittam Smith from Accounts. Yes, I am happy to be throwing my lot in with the redoubtable, even saintly, Mr David Montgomery. His consortium of Whittam Smith, Mirror Group Newspapers, Video Nasties (UK) Ltd, Nuclear Waste Disposal (Beaches) International, R and R Kray Associates, Polly Peck plc and Lloyd's of London seems to me quite the best bet available to us.

Some more snobbish than myself might query my use of the word 'redoubtable' in conjunction with Mr Montgomery. Humbug] Throughout his meteoric rise in Fleet Street, the well-loved Monty has displayed an unquestioned integrity. Frankly, he has a reputation for sheer decency equal to that of any editor you care to mention, in particular Mr Kelvin MacKenzie and Mr David O'Sullivan.

There may be those who would question whether full colour photographs of the Princess of Wales snapped secretly during a 'work- out' session in a private gymnasium would be quite right for the Independent. Yet these very same whingers would have been the first to salute the excellent use of photography when it was first introduced to the Independent]]] Sadly, the word 'hypocrisy' springs to mind]

Of course, one is bound to get a sizeable faction of 'moaners and groaners' whatever option one runs with, but I wonder if they know the real David Montgomery - the David Montgomery who spends many a lunch-break picking magnolias in the park, the David Montgomery who sometimes stops his car to let little children cross the street without running them over, the David Montgomery who can be moved to tears by tales of rape-snatch victims in house-of-hell horrors?

With great sensitivity, David has declared that he will guarantee to keep the Independent entirely 'independent' (with a small 'in') within the larger framework of Mirror Group Newspapers. He insists - and I for one believe him - that he will take no interest whatsoever in editorial policy, beyond boosting both newspapers' somewhat lacklustre royal coverage, and developing pull-out supplements on crime, sex, TV's dishiest dolly-birds and wanton vandalism, all topics sadly neglected by the newspapers in their present hoity-toity formats.

By and large, our loyal readers will notice not a ha'porth of difference. The new-look newspaper will be much the same in its lively tabloid format, with Mr Neal Ascherson writing his same much-loved weekly column - though now with a fresh new angle on the latest from the TV soaps] - and honest Al Watkins continuing to oversee his political column, though with more stress on cooking and keep-fit. Under the editorship of the lovely Eve Pollard, the Sunday magazine will gain fresh sparkle - plus a forthright new column by television's Mr Astrology, Russell Grant] And I am delighted to say that Mr Whittam Smith has himself agreed to write a bubbly new diary column every Sunday. 'Smiffy's Week' will be a delicious roller-coaster through the week's events, with all the latest fun and gossip from the hottest parties in town] Excellent news, then, for readers and staff alike - and, as a major shareholder in MGN, I can personally vouch for its utter integrity.

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