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TUESDAY 16 JULY  2024

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Spiffing yarns about the monstrous sex pest Junor and the Nick and Eva saga

The great Ross Benson once said with his customary self-effacement that if he wanted to read a good book he would write one. Which he did more than once. In my case I’ve written two and am doing a mountain of research for a third.


So, when a year or so ago I bought Andrew Cameron’s tome about his time as managing director of Express Newspapers it was put to one side to be read on a slow day. Well, yesterday must have been that slow day because I  picked it up. And know what, despite the prose style not being such as to bother the awards judges, it tells some spiffing yarns.


Most of the stories he relates about that old monster John Junor have been in circulation for decades though the one about a party given to celebrate his 60th birthday is worth repeating. 


The lunch was attended by Margaret Thatcher, the newly installed Prime Minister, and Lord Hailsham her Lord Chancellor who, you will remember, was straight out of the pages of Wodehouse. 


Long after Thatcher and co departed JJ was hitting dangerous levels of drunkenness  and was fumbling every woman unwise enough to still be present. Finally he alighted on a secretary in her 20s and the pair headed unsteadily for Waterloo and the rattler home to Dorking. (Cameron omits to tell us why Junor’s chauffeur was absent or why another pool driver wasn’t used, possibly because it would have spoiled a good story.)


Shortly after Clapham Junction the Auchtermuchty bladder signalled it could take no more and the editor, who six hours earlier had been toasted by the chatelaine of No 10, opened the door of the single compartment carriage and doused the passing tracks. The poor girl spent the night in Junor’s bed and apparently fell head-over-heels in love with her host. Thus proving there’s no accounting for taste.


Unsurprisingly, Cameron devotes a chapter titled The FreeLloyders to the Nick and Eve saga. He says Nick could be ‘quivering-lip petulant’ and once felt the need to tell Plain Mr C: ‘I would remind you that I was knighted by Mrs Thatcher for services to journalism.’ 


He makes the startling allegation that Nick had requested that part of his considerable salary be paid into an offshore account to reduce the tax burden, something which didn’t go down too well with Little Lord Stevens.


But the best is reserved for La Pollard and says she was the biggest mistake he and Stevens made when they appointed her editor of the Sunday Express. (As the mug who was made editor of the SX to succeed Junor only to be told 60 minutes later that Stevens had changed his mind, I decline to comment.)


Both Lloyds quite rightly wanted more money to spend on promoting their respective fiefdoms, so much so that Cameron says Pollard came up with this cunning plan: She instructed Charles Golding, her odious deputy, to tell a  reporter (a young freelance woman)  to ring round City investment managers and urge them to turn up at the forthcoming United Newspapers results meeting and ask embarrassing questions of Stevens on why he was starving the SX of funds to spend against the opposition.


Alas for the thoroughly ghastly Golding, the poor girl told the paper’s City Editor Dominic Prince of the plot and Prince, no doubt sensing an opportunity, informed Cameron and Stevens. Result, an unannounced visit by Cameron and Struan Coupar to Golding, off sick at his Hampstead home. ‘I plead the Eichmann defence,’ said Golding who was fired on the spot. Pollard was saved only by the intervention of Steven’s deputy chairman, Lord Ampthill, who warned that the resulting fall-out could irreparably damage both the company and Stevens.


*Footnote: Charles Golding now lives in Israel as a ‘media consultant’ (yes that old one) and recently wrote on the subject of ‘How can you overcome imposter syndrome while presenting?’ Beyond parody.


Express Newspapers: The Inside Story of a Turbulent Decade by Andrew Cameron (London House) 2000.

 *****   

Fifteen years ago we decamped to the glorious Shropshire countryside for a grand wedding. The walk from the small parish church to the bride’s family pile was accompanied by a strange buzzing noise, an unfamiliar one to most of us at the time. It was a drone, an entirely innocent way to film the happy proceedings but now the weapon of choice in the Gulf and Ukraine.


Such is the terrible march of technology. We live in an age when bombs and missiles can be fired from these devices and can blow up apartment blocks and sink ships, bringing death and destruction on an unimagined level. The awful truth is that’s the least of our worries because cyber attacks could cause far greater horrors. 


Anyone familiar with Spooks, the seemingly over-the-top MI5 series which ran for nine years from 2002 and dealt mainly with cyber attacks from Iran which could disable whole cities by remotely turning off power, crippling air traffic control, poisoning water supplies and shutting the Tube system may have appeared far-fetched but not now. We know that China has already hacked MPs and who knows who or what else.


Now London and Washington have revealed details of a decade-long campaign by Beijing to ‘repress critics, compromise government institutions and steal trade secrets.’ And that’s just China, what of countries led by real madmen like Russia, North Korea and Iran?


Thank God our nation’s fight is led by Dame Olive Dowden, the drip of a deputy prime minister who spelled out the government’s tame response this week to a chorus of derision from even the usually loyal Tory press. Help!

*****

 Front Page blurb of the decade, spread over the Mail: ‘Nadine, you are a very sexy woman. Call  me.’ Why, at 66, men are suddenly telling me I’m so desirable!


You couldn’t make it up. Except Dotty Doris probably did...  


ALAN FRAME


27 March 2024