Magazine article The Spectator

Why Is Mr Blair Prepared to Get into Bed with 'Anal Annie'?

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Is Mr Blair Prepared to Get into Bed with 'Anal Annie'?

Article excerpt

For two weeks little has happened at Express Newspapers. The company's new owner, Richard Desmond, has been on holiday in Thailand, whence he returned on Tuesday. Rosie Boycott, the unhappy editor of the Daily Express, has been doing her best to enjoy the Christmas festivities. It is the calm before the storm. There are strong rumours that Mr Desmond is about to sack a large number of journalists as a cost saving measure to add to the 60 or so support staff with whose services he has already dispensed. If he dismisses 50 or 100 journalists he will give Ms Boycott the pretext she is looking for to jump ship.

As the drama unfolds, a growing number of politicians and journalists are asking this question. Should the government block the sale of Express Newspapers to the porn baron Mr Desmond? On competition grounds there is no case at all since he does not own any other newspapers. Might there be a case on other grounds? Many liberalminded people will recoil from the idea. Few of us want to live in a country in which a government can decide who should and should not own newspapers on a subjective assessment of character.

And yet Mr Desmond is an unusual case. Before Christmas the Guardian produced evidence linking him with hardcore pornography. The paper discovered that a company owned by him had registered a website which promises live heterosexual sex, live lesbian sex as well as other images portraying a sex-crazed woman of 78, another who was pregnant and another who goes by the name of Anal Annie. We already knew that Mr Desmond publishes unsavoury magazines such as Horny Housewives and Private Lust - indeed, he appears to be responsible for more than half of the `top shelf magazines produced in this country. The Guardian's investigations have confirmed that `soft porn' is hardly an adequate description of his publishing activities.

Some people might argue that in his way Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Times and the Sun, is a bit of a pornographer. Our forefathers would have considered his Page Three girls pornographic. You would not wish to give your maiden aunt free rein with some of Mr Murdoch's satellite channels in the early hours. But surely he is not in the same league as the new owner of Express Newspapers. Only the most ardent feminist would argue that Mr Murdoch's images degrade women. What Mr Desmond publishes is disgusting, and fulfils the standard definition of pornography as demeaning of women, turning them into objects to be dominated or abused by men.

You might think that all this would upset that champion of family values and regular churchgoer, Tony Blair, but hitherto he has kept his feelings firmly under control. He has told Rosie Boycott that he cannot and will not stop Mr Desmond owning the papers. A couple of weeks before Christmas Mr Blair invited the new proprietor for a chat in Downing Street. Also present was his press secretary, Alastair Campbell, who, history suggests, does not have a very censorious view of pornography. Mr Campbell's thinking is that, whatever Mr Desmond's moral shortcomings might be, the continuing support of the pro-New Labour Daily Express is important in the months before the general election. In fact the paper is pretty marginal to Labour's fortunes. A recent Mori poll suggests that the proportion of Daily Express readers intending to vote Tory is pretty much what it was at the last election when the paper endorsed the Conservatives. …

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.