NAIVE: David Cameron’s attempt to have Paul Dacre sacked was sheer stupidity
By ALAN FRAME
I think many of us thought David Cameron arrogant; arrogant enough to have promised the Brexit referendum as a quick fix to appease his Tory rebels and, once lost, to stuff the Lords (already groaning with more than 800 members each entitled to claim a daily allowance of £300) with his cronies. Not to mention knighthoods for pals who just missed the Upper House cut (‘Sir’ Craig Oliver for instance – nice return for four years’ undistinguished work).
But few of even his most vociferous enemies would have accused the former prime minister of rank stupidity. But now Cameron has proved the formula: Naivety + Arrogance = Stupidity. Cameron, it is revealed, thought he could engineer the sacking of Paul Dacre from the editor’s chair at the Daily Mail because of his paper’s vigorous campaigning to leave the EU. Anyone, especially Mr Oliver, should have known that there are some tasks too great for mere mortals, including even prime ministers.
Some editors are easy meat, especially those whose proprietors are desperate for enoblement. The list of both examples is a long one, with the exception of Beaverbrook who had his own Machiavellian agenda and his legendary Express editor Arthur Christiansen. But Rothermere of the Daily Mail and Dacre are not on it and never will be. The fact is Dacre, reared at the Express, is afraid of no one. Taking on governments, the judiciary, powerful companies and lobby groups and the wretched Hacked Off ‘celebrities’, is what makes him get out of bed in the morning long after he could have retired to his estates for the quiet life.
Since he took over from his mentor (and mine) the late David English after his sudden death in 1998 he has shown huge courage, not least by risking his own liberty and the fortunes of his newspaper by naming the Stephen Lawrence thugs as murderers, taunting them to sue him if they didn’t like it. I’d like to have seen the response of Lord Stevens if we had tried that at the Express!
It is clear Paul Dacre can be a foul-mouthed tyrant but despite, or because of, that he is the supreme editor. How extraordinary that Cameron didn’t realise that a visit to Rothermere would not only have been a waste of time but was bound to ensure Prime Ministerial humiliation. Pathetic.
More than enough has been written about the dangerous cartoon figure that is Donald Trump but despite not winning the popular vote he was democratically elected. So like it or not he has every right to be President of the United States.
My only question is: Why on earth did Theresa May think it a good idea to invite him on a state visit to the UK when he was only a week into the job? The answer is of course that, following Brexit, she was desperate for reassurance that we will be at the front of the queue and not as Obama foolishly said ‘at the back’.
But it would have been sufficient for the prime minister to tell Trump how nice it would be if he popped over some time, just as other presidents have done before they were afforded the full red carpet stuff from the Palace. Surely common sense should have cautioned May not to jump the gun. A shame because until then she was still mastering the No 10 job rather well – albeit it without an Opposition.
And still on politicians (sorry): What possessed Mrs May to appoint the glaringly unimpressive James Brokenshire as Northern Ireland Secretary? Thanks to the peace process and to the support from all shades of opinion in Ireland, north and south of the border, this once critical role has been marginally less one of crisis management of late. But May knew that the Brexit vote would lead to tricky decisions regarding Customs regulations along what is currently an invisible border between the Republic and the North.
And the scandal over the renewable heating scheme which led to the resignation of Martin McGuinness (left) was also simmering when Brokenshire took over and sure enough, it ended up with the break-up (at least until elections next month) of the power sharing Stormont administration. So no time for an Ulster Secretary of his lack of calibre.
I go to Ireland a lot but recently I’m frequently in Belfast researching a book (don’t get too excited…it’s a history of my old school to mark its 150th birthday next year) and the place bears no resemblance to the city of bombs, burned-out cars and sheer bloody madness during 30 years of the Troubles.
That transformation to a province at peace and one which looks forwards not back is due to the likes of John Major and Tony Blair and of Ulster Secretaries of real quality: Willie Whitelaw, Merlyn Rees, Mo Mowlam and Peter Hain. And to, yes, the late Ian Paisley who finally saw the error of his ways to work with his sworn enemy Sinn Fein. It is my opinion that the man who deserves the most credit for the making power sharing such a success is Martin McGuinness, now sadly ill and out of the politics he strode to further.
As Paisley’s son Ian junior (no pushover himself) said in tribute when McGuinness stepped down as Deputy First Minister: “Judge not the man on where he begins his journey but where he ends it.”