Peter Oborne: 'I wrote a story saying nothing was going on. My news editor told me a riot had broken out'

My Greatest Mistake: With the political editor of 'The Spectator'

Interview,Adam Jacques
Tuesday 25 February 2003 01:00

To relive my worst mistake still brings a blush of shame and horror to my cheeks. In 1993, when I was a novice political reporter for the London Evening Standard. The editor, Stewart Steven, asked me to go to Copenhagen and cover the second Danish referendum on the Maastricht treaty.

The referendum turned out to be a prodigiously dull event, with the counting held in the Danish parliament, a great featureless building with lots of featureless Danish politicians. The result from the start was going to be a win for the "Yes" vote. I had to write some sort of colour on this, and I duly talked to politicians until I felt sleepy, whereupon I went back to my hotel and wrote a piece saying that it was quite the dullest political event ever.

The next morning, I received a call from Mike Leese at the Standard's news desk. I remember it vividly. He told me that, overnight, fire had broken out in a quarter of Copenhagen quite far from my hotel; there had been a massive riot. The battle between rioters and police had gone on all night, and several had been shot dead. I felt my stomach crashing to the floor.

The Standard took Press Association copy. It was the ultimate shame for me, although when Leese killed my story, he also took it off the system to save me further embarrassment. I learnt always to ring your desk before you file a story.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments