Born with Coal Dust in His Navel, His Victims Now Include Top Ministers, a Spin-Doctor and a PM's Peace of Mind

By Aitken, Ian | New Statesman (1996), January 15, 1999 | Go to article overview

Born with Coal Dust in His Navel, His Victims Now Include Top Ministers, a Spin-Doctor and a PM's Peace of Mind


Aitken, Ian, New Statesman (1996)


One of Private Eye's many contributions to Fleet Street's rich folklore is the invention of Lunchtime O' Booze as the archetype of the steam-age, pre-computerised journalist. Hacks just like him could once be found in all the pubs that lined the Street of Shame. He and his sort thrived on typewriters, telephones and beer. They have found the e-mail revolution more challenging.

Private Eye once named grumpy old George Gale as the model. But Gale became teetotal towards the end of his life and wasn't quite right. A better example would be the man who now heads new Labour's list of most hated journalists: Peter Mandelson's nemesis, the author of two explosive political biographies, Mirror pundit and former Times reporter, Paul Routledge.

Not only does Routledge have a reputation as a professional drinker of heroic proportions, he also performs better than his more sober competitors. As most of his ex-bosses affirm, he is capable of taking on awesome quantities of liquor, but will still be in the office early next morning, throbbing with enthusiasm rather than a hangover. For him drinking is not just fun, it is also an effective tool in the search for a story. As one admiring ex-colleague puts it: "Paul sees it as his duty to get pissed with his contacts as often as possible."

The result, even before he took to writing books, was a string of memorable scoops. A prime example was his exposure of John Major's hatred for three members of his cabinet, whom the then prime minister described as "those bastards" during a private chat after finishing a television interview. Unfortunately for Major, the microphones were still live, and someone phoned Routledge with the quote. It set the tone for the last stages of the Major premiership.

Routledge was under sentence of death at the Observer when he delivered the "Bastardgate" story. Though the paper used the story with elan, it didn't save his job. His enemies - and his gruff Yorkshire manner has made a few - claimed that he did nothing to get the story beyond answering the phone. They missed the point, which is that Routledge's source chose him, and not someone else.

Yet his books rather than his news stories are what now assure Routledge of his place in contemporary history. His biography of Gordon Brown, published more than a year ago, supplied the first detailed account of the personal feud between the Chancellor and Tony Blair and their respective followers. His newly published biography of Peter Mandelson was the origin of the story about the loan of [pounds]370,000 to Mandelson from the Paymaster General, Geoffrey Robinson. It forced the resignation of both ministers, together with that of the man widely (but probably inaccurately) accused of being the source of the story, Brown's spin-doctor, Charlie Whelan.

Whether you regard that as a good or a bad thing, the toppling of two senior ministers and a top Treasury official is an astonishing feat for a journeyman journalist who plies his trade in spit-and-sawdust bars. Not only has he blown a gaping hole in the cabinet, he has also shaken the entire new Labour "project" to its foundations. All that activity at the beginning of this week, with ministers besieging the television studios in a desperate bid to restore the government's reputation for competence, is down to just one rumpled, middle-aged reporter: the 55-year-old Routledge.

He was born at No 15 Railway Terrace, Normanton, Yorkshire, the son of a railway clerk. Most of the rest of his male relatives were coal miners; as a colleague put it, "he had coal dust in his navel".

A scholarship boy at Normanton Grammar School, he moved on to Nottingham University. Soon after arriving there, however, there was a romantic drama when the 19-year-old Routledge eloped to Edinburgh with his 18-year-old girlfriend Lynne. They were married in Cramond Church, and their first daughter was born while they were still in their teens. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Born with Coal Dust in His Navel, His Victims Now Include Top Ministers, a Spin-Doctor and a PM's Peace of Mind
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.