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SUNDAY 14 APRIL 2024

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OFF THE SPIKE

WITH TEL

Say what you like about Mike Parry but he was a hard worker and hero of the hour when Diana died

TRUSTED: Mike Parry

BORN AGAIN TV pundit of all things, Mike Parry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, or perhaps I should say vodka and tonic. But rough, gruff and sometimes overwhelming, you can’t take away the work ethic of this larger-than-life Northerner. He works until he drops, literally.


However, last week I feel he uncharacteristically under-played himself on GB News when he revealed how the story broke that Princess Diana had died in that notorious Paris car crash in 1997. It was a classic example of huge stress in some of the top jobs in the Press. A side most people don’t see or understand.


The death of Diana was touched on when Mike appeared on the GB News newspaper review following the death of Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, father of Diana’s lover Dodi, who also died in the crash.


Mike was formerly News Editor of the Daily Express as most readers know, and I worked closely with him as Night Editor, in fact just a few feet away, for six years. Our rows were legendary, and Editor Nick Lloyd would often keep out of the way in his office.


Once I even chased Mike around the newsroom in the heat of the moment, but we always buried the hatchet later … sometimes over a bottle of his mind-blowing vodka, courtesy of Will Stewart in Moscow. The next day my wife would receive an anonymous bouquet of flowers delivered to her door. I knew who it was, as hung over as I was.


Nothing lasts forever, of course, and we eventually went our separate ways. He went to the Press Association, and I became Editor-in-Chief of Express Newspapers in Scotland but later fell foul of so-called socialist, Chairman Clive Hollick and his pal, dog-lover-cum-editor, Rosie Boycott, also later elevated to the peerage.


These were dark days for me, leaving the Express after 26 years and I suffered greatly. I was not sure if I would come through. I quickly came to the personal conclusion that Hollick was about as socialist as a 125g tin of 000 caviar at Fortnum & Mason. But I had friends. One was PA Chief Executive and later Chairman, Paul Potts. I will never forget his friendship.


He asked me to edit a hardback book on the history of the Press Association to be written by that doyen of political reporting, Chris Moncrieff, with a forward from Prime Minister Tony Blair.


It was to be a weighty tome beginning in 1868 and Chris and I got stuck into the project, picking out the best stories to cover on the journey of the Press Association to what it is today. A giant task. One story was the death of Princess Diana … and the role PA played in its coverage.


These were the days of Tony Blair’s new Labour government and Mike was PA’s Executive Editor. Early on the Sunday morning of August 31, 1997, he came rushing into the newsroom to take over the breaking story of Diana injured in a car crash in Paris in which lover Dodi Fayed had died.


Mike was told she was alive but had lacerations to her thigh, a broken arm and concussion. At this time PA’s Senior Foreign Correspondent, Charlie Miller was in the Philippines, covering a tour by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.


Cook held an impromptu press conference in his Manila hotel lobby with the Press Pack, telling them about the crash but that Diana was alive. Cook then went to meet the staff of the British Embassy and Charlie and the journalists went to the military air base to wait for him on his RAF VC 10 bound for home.


But Cook never arrived and reporter Charlie grew restless. He got off the plane still standing on the runway by the perimeter gate and secretly listened to the conversations of Cook’s Whitehall officials arriving for the flight home. After speaking to a couple of them who had helped him in the past, the awful truth dawned on him. He believed Diana was dead.


Luckily, he got a line on his mobile and spoke to his contacts in Paris, before speaking to Mike in London. It was around 4.20am and the presses of the daily newspapers were still rolling all over Fleet Street and the world.


This was the moment Mike had the future reputation of PA in his hands. There was no official announcement that Diana had died. The world had no idea. If Charlie’s hunch and contacts were wrong, and Mike sent out a newsflash announcing her death, he would probably lose his job and destroy the reputation of the agency across the globe.


He rang Paul Potts at home to tell him what he was about to do, and Paul told him that he trusted him to do the right thing. He also trusted Charlie.


At 4.41am, Mike took a deep breath and agreed the newsflash with his foreign reporter, saying that Diana was believed to be dead. Then came the anxious minutes of waiting after pushing the button to ‘send’. The presses stopped rolling everywhere; Editors were woken up in their beds; reporters were rung; managements put on standby to increase print runs all over the UK. The minutes seemed like hours. Phones were ringing across the PA newsroom.


A quarter of an hour passed, and still no announcement from Paris. Mike must have believed he had made an awful mistake. Then, at 4.57am, 16 minutes after his newsflash, the official announcement came from France. Diana had died.


The rest of course is history. That night it would have been so easy for Mike to wait for the official announcement, but he didn’t and beat the world.  Even then, I am told, some people lambasted him for taking that risk. Well done mate.


Living on a Deadline by Chris Moncrieffe

Published by Virgin Books Ltd.

*****


Adieu au revoir lads … enjoy Blighty













Have a great time lads! A French frigate escorts a dinghy packed with illegal male immigrants from France to the shores of Dover. More boats followed.


Sea hero Lord Nelson would have got his stockings and breeches in a twist last week as a French frigate escorted yet another dinghy packed with illegal male immigrants to our shores, bringing the number of invaders this year to over 20,000 alone. Days later, yet more came.


As Belgium finally got tough and banned illegal, single male immigrants from its soil, this picture in the Mirror and other titles sums up in my mind, the weakness of leadership in our country, floundering in the web of Wokeness now, and fearing the wrath of anonymous judges in Strasbourg, the rich with an axe to grind, and dodgy lawyers in London.


The country is split on the crisis, even the Press and TV. From the Emmerdale villages of Yorkshire to the canteen of the Neasden Omnibus Company, people have wildly opposed views.


But is it true that all these male illegal immigrants, without ID papers, who come across in smugglers’ dinghies, really are persecuted and in fear of their lives as a minority of Brits with loud voices say? Some reluctantly believe there might be a few bad apples?


And if you watch BBC news or read some left-wing newspapers, they will tell you that even with our cost-of-living crisis, food banks and homeless families, these young, mainly African males, have the same rights to live here and reap our benefits as we have.


Sadly, we have a government in office but not in power. The Tories won a huge majority at the last election, but minorities rule now. We are not in charge of our sovereignty.


Democracy is slowly dying. And if you landed in an alien spaceship, you would think Labour was in power. Or perhaps Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has just become Prime Minister? God forbid. Are Facebook, Tik-Tok and X the new parliament? You might think that too.  


There are endless protests against anything the Government does to protect our shores and sovereignty. These do-gooders turn a deaf ear to statistics which reveal the number of foreign criminals now make up over 12 per cent of our prison population. Things are so bad; judges have been told to cut back on jail sentences as space runs out in November.


And as Home Sec. Suella Braverman announces plans to fit illegals with electronic tags to keep track of them when they run away, their misguided sympathisers here flood the internet with lessons on how to cut them off!


The fact that the Tories won the last election with a massive majority on the illegal immigration ticket, cuts no ice with the secretive Strasbourg judge who overruled our own highest judges and stuck his legal fingers up at the Government’s deportation plans, then scurried back to bed.


He (or she, it, they) interfered with our sovereignty. What on earth was Brexit all about, if we can’t rule ourselves, eh? We need to scrap him and their courts and create our own bill of Human Rights, lifting only what is good from theirs.


For as Sunak crumbles trying to deliver an answer to the migrant problem, Britain slides down the slippery slope to losing its culture, traditions and ability to rule itself. Its communities will radically change over the next 50 years, with new political parties, religious rulings and Wokeism, if it goes on uncapped. How many single and illegal immigrant males must we take in … thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?


Majority governments must be allowed to rule.

*****     

What floats your vote?


Over the last year I have morphed into a floating voter again, unable to be convinced enough to put my X against anything but a protest vote at the ballot box.


Unlike the Silly Billies who vote Labour or whatever at elections because their great, great grandfather did, and tell that to everyone who is interested enough to listen, wearing it as some kind of badge, I vote for the party I think will benefit our nation most … but not crucify my pay packet or pension.


Rishi Sunak and his war-torn Tories who have created our Have and Have Not society, and in my book, let Tory voters down on almost every manifesto pledge. They have unwittingly become the party of taxes and open borders.


Labour makes lots of noise and dismisses almost everything the Tories say and do … but never really tell us what they would do, unless they are forced to admit they would do exactly the same. Keeping the immigrant barges is one example.


Then there is Labour’s Emily Thornberry. She told BBC TV, with her customary smirk (not a good look Emily) “… all this Government does is re-arrange the deckchairs on the sinking ship!” Fair enough Emily, so what would you do? Smirk. No answer. Not even what the colours on her deckchairs would be. Red, I suppose.


Meanwhile, there are the hapless LibDums to vote for. They seem to be hanging around waiting for votes. But even though they make much use of the colour orange, all I really know about them is that they are green! Their grinning leader, Ed Davey, tells us that the Tories are hopeless and it’s time for a change. What does that mean, other than let him choose a new sofa for Downing St?

*****     


Rule Britannia


What a remarkable story last week when we learned how WW11 veteran Lawrence Churcher found his two brothers as the bombs rained down on our 300-strong army in disarray, trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. No mobile phones then. They dodged bullets and fought their way to his ship to get back home to Blighty.


Lawrence died just a few days before his 103rd birthday in a care home in Fareham, Hants. Newspapers and TV turned up last week in the pouring rain to cover his funeral. His coffin, draped in a union flag with a navy hat on top, was carried by pallbearers from the Royal Navy into Portchester crematorium for the private service. Tearful stuff.


     Lawrence was posted to HMS Eagle and landed in France in May 1940 to help supply ammunition to the frontlines. He was ordered to a railhead outside Dunkirk. But as France collapsed our forces were forced to pull back to the beaches and he began a frantic search for his brothers, Edward and George, as the bombs fell.


Amazingly they found each other. “I just felt relief. There were so many soldiers there and aircraft dropping bombs and strafing us,” he said. “Back on ship, one rescued fella leaned on my shoulder, sighed and told me: ‘Thank God we’ve got a navy!’ I felt churned up inside and knew then we had to get all those boys back from the hell of Dunkirk. We did, mostly.”


It is stories like this that should be remembered and passed on to the children of our nation … from every war. We must never forget our soldiers and heroes. We must keep monuments to them and build more after more wars come. Wokeism and the current obsession of destroying statues, has no place here.

*****


Graves of heartbreak


IT WAS heartbreaking to watch BBC TV coverage of the sunflower graves in Ukraine, where hundreds of bodies of the brave lads and lasses who died defending their nation are being buried.


Thousands of flags from regiments, villages and town halls fluttered in the wind as the bulldozers moved in to dig up more sunflowers to make more space and body bags were dragged across the earth which would be their new home.


All these young lives that were once full of hopes and dreams for the future have been snuffed out and replace the sunflowers which are the Ukrainian symbol of peace, resilience and life, planted in memory of the Chernobyl disaster.  


Meanwhile, hundreds of body bags of Russian soldiers are being stored for eventual return home. All this, we are told, for the greed and ambition of a handful of men in the Kremlin who live in absolute luxury. As for Mr Putin, there are press reports speculating that he could be the richest man in the world. We don’t doubt it. And all on a declared annual income of £10,000 a month.


Yet, Russians interviewed by TV reporters on the Moscow streets last week, all said the same thing. That the ‘special operation’ which is annihilating their once peaceful neighbour Ukraine had to be done … or Nato would invade. Good God!

*****

Sofa news


I thought the new rush of TV news programmes would herald a breath of fresh air. Producers promised unbiased reports and a whole new approach to current events. But what we have mostly ended up with is a studio of personal views from sofas and pension boosts for the old school.


Take GB News, they tell us in their TV blurbs that they are the nation’s favourite news channel and the only channel worth watching. Yet all they do is pick up the news from other stations and the Press, and then talk endlessly about it. Interesting at times, but not what we were promised. Just more of the same.

***** 


Terry Manners



4th September 2023