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TUESDAY 16 JULY  2024

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The Mail has hired the two most risible Tories to write columns at a cost of  £1.4m

Those of us of a certain vintage will remember with a mixture of relish and horror the 1987 tome ‘Woman as Chameleon: Or how to be an ideal woman’. The reason for the mixed reaction was because it was written by Melissa Sadoff, wife of Little Lord Stevens, pompous and hopelessly inept chairman of Express Newspapers.


The breathless pages instructed women how to please their men, starting with kissing the poor bugger’s toes before heading north to what Lady S called ‘the oral act.’ Understandably, sniggering was the order of the day. Until that is, in order to keep the Daily Mail from having a field day by buying serialisation rights, the Express paid Quartet Books for that honour. It was duly spread across the Women’s pages for most of a week.


I mention this because the embarrassment and genuine dilemma we had is probably akin to that now being faced by many senior Daily and Sunday execs at the Mail. One presumes it was Paul Dacre who thought fit to employ the two most risible Tories, Johnson and Dorries, to write a weekly column each at vast expense, both in terms of money and reputation. I am told Johnson’s Saturday essays earn him £1million a year and his loving, fawning cheerleader £400,000. And of course the two papers are serialising Dorries’ guff this week.


Meanwhile, the former would-be King of the World is undergoing a much deserved filleting at the Covid enquiry while her ‘expose’ of those behind his assassination (her word) is widely derided, mostly because she states the bleedin’ obvious that the plotters were Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings. And no mention that the man who really brought him down was A deP B Johnson himself.


So I read with fascination an interview in the latest edition of the MoS with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves which was as near to being an endorsement of her as even the Guardian or Mirror would manage. What are we to make of this; do the Mail titles know the game is up for the Tories and they had better make up with the enemy? They did so in 1997 when they fell for the charms of Tony Blair and, while Keir Starmer certainly isn’t another Blair, neither is he a Johnson, a Truss, a Gove, a Hancock or a Gavin Williamson. He’s a boring manager which is what most of the country craves now following scandal after scandal during 13 years of the Conservatives.


And talking of scandals, what are we to make of the latest revelations; that the party tried to brush under the shag pile the MP who raped three women and another who had sex with a hooker on a table while four of his parliamentary colleagues cheered him on? Twitter or X or whatever its latest iteration is, is awash with rumour mostly centred around the Essex boy headbanger Mark Francois who has been uncharacteristically quiet of late.


Whatever the truth, any party so mired in sexual and political horrors once led by a serial liar and shagger and a deluded woman who seems still to have zero self-awareness will be find it nigh impossible to attract support from Fleet Street. I have no doubt our once great Express will toe the line, probably the Telegraph too but I wonder if there may be a softening at the Mail who always like to back the winner.


Interesting times indeed.

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Still on elections, the big one next year in the US is currently a perverse contest between two old men, one of whom may, we hope, be serving the rest of his life in a penitentiary and the other in the Sweet Dreams Care Home for Gentlefolk.


So here’s a question: Would someone please explain why Biden cannot be persuaded to fall down the stairs and Antony Blinken, his seemingly tireless Secretary of State, stand as the Democrat candidate. Blinken is a young 61, has served Clinton, Obama and Biden but was also on Bush junior’s national security council. He’s undoubtedly clever and has clocked up the air miles trying to resolve the awful crisis in the Middle East.


He is Jewish which in the States, home to more Jews anywhere except Israel, so that should not be a problem, and he married an Irish American Roman Catholic woman in an interfaith ceremony. What’s not to like? Do the right thing Joe…

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Our old friend Retro Rambleshanks rambled on about sexism at the Express mentioning only Philippa Kennedy and Lady Lloyd as those women who have succeeded. What about great reporters like Liz Gill and Gill Martin and feature writers such as Jenny Rees and Liz Grice? Not to mention talented (though undoubtedly difficult) women editors Kate Hadley and Heather McGlone. And of course the brilliant and versatile Kim Willsher?


And here I must correct a great calumny in another column. I was editing the paper on the night of the Lockerbie disaster which thoughtlessly happened on the day of the reporters’ Christmas party. When we tried to book a flight to Scotland for a hastily assembled team of our finest we failed: every seat was full. So off they went by car, driven by Kim, who was not pissed as alleged. She was as near sober as one could hope for after a very, very long lunch.


And she led the team who, once they got there, performed with great distinction. Those were the days, my friends.

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Postscript on the late John Roberts: John, ever the countryman, owned two sheep to keep the grass down. Sylvia christened them Sam and Suzie while our hero, being of a less sentimental nature, called them Deepfreeze One and Deepfreeze Two.


One week John thoughtfully cooked the Sunday roast, lamb with all the trimmings. I don’t think I need to write more, suffice to say Sylvia went hungry and a great, er, freeze ensued.


7 November 2023