SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024


Pity the poor sap at the Mail who has to manage Johnson’s new column

Unrest at the Daily Mail where cost cutting has been at the heart of the effective merger of both titles and the severe lurch to the far right has upset many of the staff. But now for the Boris Johnson Column, starting today, negotiated (of course) by Lord (failed the HOLAC test) Dacre for at least £500,000.

But heaven help the poor sap who has to manage him because Johnson, unquestionably a talented writer, is as much a stranger to deadlines as he is to the truth. When editing The Spectator his frazzled deputy Stuart Reid was the real editor, clearing up his boss’s many messes and just getting on with getting the magazine out once a week. As Matthew Parris says: ‘When anyone tells you how glorious was the reign of Boris at the Speccie, spare a thought for the man who made it possible.’

Now Johnson has to show some sort of discipline and deliver more or less on time and whichever exec has drawn the short straw is in for a tough time. In theory they will have to discuss the subjects for the column, make sure they don’t clash or negate other features planned for that day’s edition and then see it through to publication. 

For years I was Jean Rook’s hand holder and despite what you may think she was a doddle. She would ask for ideas, then ignore most of what I had suggested, and write to length and on time. Ditto my dear old pal Peter Tory and the brilliant Jon Akass. 

But Johnson will think nothing of creating trouble for his minder and invoke both Ted Verity, the Mail editor, and of course Dacre. 

And what of the Boris cheerleader-in-chief Lady (also failed the HOLAC test) Dorries? Her piss poor offerings have littered the Mail for the last few Tuesdays. But for how much longer? In the words of an old Kensington stalwart ‘she’s not worth a light and should be — and probably will be — shown the exit into Derry Street.’

If ever there was a poisoned chalice, then being Johnson’s minder is it.

17th June 2023