Stop Knocking Richard Desmond: It's Simple Snobbery That Makes the Telegraph Toffs Scorn the Owner of Horny Housewives

By Byrnes, Sholto | New Statesman (1996), December 8, 2003 | Go to article overview

Stop Knocking Richard Desmond: It's Simple Snobbery That Makes the Telegraph Toffs Scorn the Owner of Horny Housewives


Byrnes, Sholto, New Statesman (1996)


There has been great wringing of hands at the prospect of Richard Desmond owning the Daily Telegraph. Objections centre on Desmond's ownership of a string of top-shelf publications, the titles of which are regularly trotted out to much chortling. A pornographer, it is said, is an unsuitable person to control a substantial chunk of the fourth estate. How terrible that he managed to get his hands on the remnants of the mighty Beaverbrook empire. How much more terrible if the Telegraph's tweeds were soiled by having to snuggle up to Asian Babes and Horny Housewives.

It is worth considering, then, how Desmond's ownership has affected the Express. Apart from slightly more coverage of the proprietor's friends David and Victoria Beckham, it is much the same paper as before. The poet John Cooper Clarke wrote: "I've seen how democracy is under duress,/but I've never seen a nipple in the Daily Express," and I can't say I've noticed many in the past three years, either. Yes, there are plenty in the Daily Star, which Desmond also owns, but so there were before (as there are also in the Sun), and if people wish to admire Jordan's improbable embonpoint over breakfast, that's their business.

Does it matter that Desmond's fortunes stem partly from such saucy publications? Top-shelf magazines are perfectly legal, and there can hardly be a man in the British Isles who has not either purchased or glanced at one in his life. I can still visualise an imaginative tribute to the television series Dempsey and Make-peace in which a young lady disported herself as though she were Glynis Barber, only with rather fewer clothes, in a magazine I was shown aged 12. I'm sure many New Statesman readers have similar happy memories. Alastair Campbell wrote for Forum magazine under the name of "Riviera Gigolo" in his youth. Whatever reservations one may have had about his conduct as Tony Blair's mouthpiece, I hardly think that made him unsuitable for the role. If it doesn't affect how the newspapers are run, isn't all this fuss a load of hypocritical humbug?

It has been reported that Michael Howard has gained Desmond's assurance that if he bought the Telegraph it would remain a Conservative-supporting newspaper. Desmond is not hugely interested in politics, and, under his ownership, the Express has remained broadly supportive of the government. …

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