Support Basham’s bash at the marathon

prostatecanceruk


And now for something completely serious:

Next March my good friend Brian Basham runs the London Marathon as an act of defiance against mortality in his 75th year. It’s not his first attempt; in 2001 he did it despite pulling three tendons in training the week before. By then £15,000 had been pledged to prostate cancer research but would only be triggered if he finished the course; consequently, he limped it in six and a half hours, which shows just what grit and determination can achieve.

In 2001 he even wrote to his old adversary Richard Branson for support. He wasn’t hopeful because to Branson’s fury he had roundly trounced the Bearded One in the High Court in what was the biggest libel trial of the 90s. Basham asked Branson for a donation on the grounds that the event might finish him off but Branson did not bite.

This year Brian won’t be wasting his time on Branson but he is hoping to better the £15,000 he raised first time round. Once again his chosen charity is Prostate Cancer UK and a great cause it is. Chaired at one time by the ground-breaking surgeon Roger (now Professor) Kirby it has transformed the treatment of prostate cancer in the UK but there’s still a long way to go

If you would like to support this terrific cause and spur Basham to the end of 26 miles simply follow this link.

Basham, like me, has regular check-ups and so far so good. But most chaps reading The Drone are generally of a certain age (though hopefully still behaving rather like we did in the heady days in Fleet Street) and scarily, we may not know it but we are likely to have at least the first signs of prostate cancer. That’s because 60 per cent of men over the age of 65 develop it and as my GP says: ‘Most men die with prostate cancer but not necessarily of it.’ It’s a slow developer unlike most other cancers. And that explains why charities dealing with breast cancer in women attract the big money both in donations and in Government research funding and yet breast cancer hits ‘only’ 12 per cent of women.

By almost any standards Brian Basham, pictured right, is a remarkable and prolific character. Son of a South London butcher, he left Catford Secondary Mod at 16 and began (and very soon stopped) as an apprentice electrician. Instead he embarked on a lifetime of learning by listening, reading and studying. 

His first job was as a messenger in the Daily Mail’s City office, then a spell on City Press and at just 21 back to the Mail as the youngest ‘staff’ man in Fleet Street  as the Mail City Page Night Production Editor under the grand Patrick Sergeant. After the Mail, the Telegraph , The Times and an investigation into the connection between organised crime and the City (shades of today) while under cover as a fund manager he first joined the legendary PR man John Addey and then set up his own business, the Broad Street Group. 

He brought to what he still calls the ‘tawdry trade’ a (then) unique combination of talents as an analyst, an investigator, a decent writer, a huge wealth of contacts and a bellicose lack of fear developed on the streets of Catford. He became known throughout the City as the ‘Street Fighter’ and was the undisputed King of Financial PR throughout the 80s and into the 90s. He advised Sir Peter Parker when he was chairman of British Rail and at his request gave his ‘unemployable’ son Alan Parker, founder of Brunswick and now knighted, his first job in PR.  Roland Rudd of Finsbury came to him for advice but, Basham says, Parker is smart, a natural and streets ahead of the field.

He was a long-term corporate advisor to the Saatchi brothers when they dominated global advertising and it was witnessing the huge sums Basham was earning from clients in the mid-80s that tempted Tim Bell to leave Saatchi and to go into PR (Bell Pottinger has of course recently imploded over the Zuma/Gupta scandal.)

I first met Basham in 1982 when I was Features Editor and he was advising British Airways. It was in that capacity that he had the enormous ding dong with Branson over the book Dirty Tricks. Basham not only won the libel action I mentioned earlier but had the book pulped. 

He was on retainer from half the FTSE as well as characters like Mohamed Fayed, James Hanson, and the ghastly Robert Maxwell all of whom were introduced to him by the leading merchant banks of the era who wanted him on their side in takeover fights. Eventually Hanson paid him a vast ‘conflict fee’ to do nothing, ‘just don’t work for the other side’. Nice work if you can get it…

His nickname ‘Streetfighter’ was not only a nod to his Catford upbringing but also to his analytical skills.  In his biography of Branson the investigative author Tom Bower referred to ‘Basham’s frighteningly accurate analysis’ of Branson’s hugely complex finances. 

Basham has made a great deal of money over the years and is exceptionally generous with it. He is the first to help charities (we have sat on the committees of two of them) and is credited with ‘saving the Royal British Legion by taking to them a campaign for bringing back Remembrance at 11am on the 11th of the 11th. He did this by getting all of Fleet Street onside (in fact the Sun and Mirror each did 10 pages apiece on it and it was then that the papers started incorporating the poppy symbol into their mastheads in the run up to November 11.

It’s typical that Brian (once the subject of a three-page hatchet job by Geoffrey Levy in the Mail, something that Basham remembers with amusement while acknowledging that our old friend and colleague did at least write it rather well) is fundraising  for a disease which he has so far avoided. But, as he says, you don’t have to be a starving child in Ethiopia to know that giving money to help has to be right. I know that he would value any help to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK.

*****

Following the Drone’s World Exclusive on the vile Jimmy Savile, I now learn that the brilliant Brian Hitchen, pictured, when News Editor in the late 70s/80s assembled his finest to investigate the activities of Savile. There were enough rumours doing the rounds to warrant the project, especially the more gruesome stuff concerning the monster’s ‘good works’ at various children’s hospitals.

hitchen

One has to assume that we were not alone and that our rivals were onto Savile also. Sadly the dossier, though containing substantial evidence, was never published and was locked away in the editorial safe. It would come out each time a new Editor was appointed (an alarmingly regular event in those days), but each one was, understandably it has to be said, put off by the company Savile kept: Prince Charles and Margaret Thatcher for starters.

It is difficult, no make that impossible, to see why they fell for him, this ludicrous poltroon with bleached hair, ghastly shell suits, Lew Grade cigars and awful trademark catchphrases. Maybe he sprayed Charles with the sort of oleaginous worship he seems to crave. There was even a suggestion that Charlie wanted Savile as godfather to Harry.

As for Thatcher, she had Savile to stay for various Christmases at Chequers. It must have been a gathering that defies satire; old school Denis, his workaholic wife, assorted hangers-on and poor sods from the Cabinet who didn’t dare say No (the vegetables, as Spitting Image had it) and the former miner turned serial sex offender in a string vest. Trebles all round!

If only we had published and be damned, how many innocent women and children might have been saved?

ALAN FRAME


© 2005-2018 Alastair McIntyre