Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

As an editor, I find the Piers Morgan affair a little embarrassing. The Daily Telegraph revealed last week that the editor of the Mirror bought shares in a company called Viglen, the day before his paper tipped them. The value of his shares shot up, and now Mr Morgan is being investigated and his two tipsters have been sacked. Asking myself how I pass muster on this subject, I must confess a sad and simple fact - I do not know how to buy shares. I know how to buy an ISA and I exercised my share options in the Telegraph Group when they existed. Otherwise, the only shares I have ever bought were some of the privatisations of the Thatcher years, when there was a coupon you could cut out in the newspapers. I have sat on them ever since and probably own about f4,000 worth of BT, BAA, etc. It is, I expect, the work of a moment to find out how to buy shares, but, now that the subject has come up, I find a remarkably large number of my friends are in the same position as I am, and have never got round to asking how. I can see that the situation is very different if you are the editor of a People's newspaper, and therefore rich beyond all telling.

By the way, I certainly shall not sell my little pile of shares as a result of this furore. The idea that journalists should not own shares because of a possible conflict of interest is one of the demented moralisms of our time, like the Nolan reforms of Parliament. You might as well say that the editor of the property pages should not buy or sell a house. It is a positively good thing if journalists own shares, since they are putting their money where their mouth is. The point about a conflict of interest is not that its possibility should be avoided in all circumstances but that, when it occurs, it should be declared and sorted out.

We spent last weekend staying with friends in Kent. They are called Richard and Amicia Oldfield, and their late Victorian house looks from its high hill across a valley to the house of their great friends and neighbours, Kate Lampard and her husband, John Leigh-Pemberton. We spent Saturday hunting on both families' land, and that evening John and Kate came to dinner at the Oldfields'. But this Saturday, I discovered, the two households will be in competition, because Richard and Kate have both put themselves forward to be the Tory candidate for Faversham and Mid Kent, and have reached the first round of interviews. This could be a ticklish matter because both are serious candidates with deep roots (in Kate's case, by marriage) in the constituency and an excellent knowledge of public affairs. It would be hard to find stronger local candidates. But at least one of them will eventually have to lose. So far, all is amiability, and Richard, who thought of standing first, urged Kate to put in for it. Nevertheless, I see the plot of a good novel beginning here - an eventual breach, perhaps, leading to centuries of dynastic rivalry. Perhaps Faversham and Mid Kent will solve the problem by selecting the usual property developer or Central Office product who has little to do with the place, but I do hope not.

At Mass on Sunday in Faversham I stared at the altarpiece and noticed that it was a bit different from the standard, unlovely work to be found in most English Catholic churches. The style of rather rounded bodies, and the cross-hatching, reminded me of the 'Tim and Ginger' books which I loved in childhood. This turned out to be right: Edward Ardizzone lived in Faversham, apparently, and did the painting for the church. …

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