Magazine article The Spectator

Unless Pier Morgan Is Careful, Richard Desmond Could Buy the Mirror

Magazine article The Spectator

Unless Pier Morgan Is Careful, Richard Desmond Could Buy the Mirror

Article excerpt

Piers Morgan, the editor of the Daily Mirror, is an opponent of the coming war against Iraq. Fair enough. Many of us are unhappy about it. But he has taken his opposition to extreme and, I would say, imprudent lengths. To use a military analogy, he has fired off his biggest nuclear missiles without first going through the range of lesser weaponry. Last week there was an enormous picture of Tony Blair on the Mirror's front page with his hands covered in blood. It referred to an inside rant by John Pilger. The previous day the front-page headline had told George Bush to 'Cool it, Cowboy'. Day after day the paper inveighs against war. Most of its readers may be sceptics, but I cannot believe that they relish coverage that is both hysterical and obsessional. Our boys, after all, are steaming towards the Gulf. What will the Mirror do when the fighting starts? It is one thing to argue that there is insufficient proof to justify war against Iraq; quite another to depict Tony Blair as a mass murderer on a par with Saddam Hussein.

Perhaps I am being naive. Perhaps the childish outbursts of 'red top' tabloids are not taken very seriously by their readers. When the first shot is fired. and Mr Morgan falls in behind our boys, the readers may simply shrug their shoulders and barely notice. I don't really think so. Mr Morgan's more extreme japes endanger the reputation of the paper he happens to edit. No British newspaper has ever opposed a war in such a manner. For all his undoubted flair, Mr Morgan is considerably pushing his luck. He is an editor who is partly out of control. and he lacks a strong proprietor or hands-on chairman with editorial nous to stay his hand.

You may say that an editor can get away with anything when sales are rising. But that is not the situation at the Mirror. Circulation is down by more than 5 per cent over the year, admittedly in a market that has been generally depressed. In that same year Mr Morgan has spent some 20 million of shareholders' money on a relaunch which may have won the plaudits of some commentators impressed by the Minor's supposedly more serious tone but has left the punters underwhelmed. His position is not a strong one, and yet he is behaving as though he were a proprietor-editor in full flow; as though. one might say. the Daily Mirror belonged to him.

It doesn't. In fact, the paper's management has been trying to flog it off, along with its sister titles. Last October I revealed that the Mirror was being `offered around to the buy-out boys'. According to last Sunday's Sunday Telegraph, Trinity Mirror `has received a 1.3 billion takeover approach from Apax Partners and Candover, the venture-capital groups'. Evidently Sir Victor Blank, the chairman of Trinity Mirror, and the man who has shown Mr Morgan such extraordinary indulgence, does not think that the offers are generous enough. Sir Victor - a former merchant banker with no previous publishing experience - is said to believe that Trinity Mirror's new chief executive will want to hold the group together. This person is called Sly Bailey, a blonde bombshell who has spent her life in magazines. We will have to see whether she is happy with Mr Morgan treating the Daily Mirror as though it were his personal property.

I personally would not be over-confident about the chances of Sir Victor Blank, Sly Bailey and Piers Morgan stabilising the group's national titles, let alone reviving the Daily Mirror. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.