One in the Eye 1977

7th January 1977

Grovel writes: Tubby Getsmuchsmaller hack Peter McKay has flown in a specially-built wide-and-small-bodied-Philip-Morris-freeload-special to the West Indies, ostensibly to report on backgammon activities.

Will McHackey succumb to all this venality? Not Nassau-sarily so. For he confesses: ‘I don’t know anything about backgammon, so I’ll play a few rounds of golf.’

*****

Further details of the unprecedented £52,000 joint pay-off to the astonished and grateful pair of long-serving Sun hacks, features editor Bob Coole and writer Alix Palmer. 

The opening offer was a mere £26,000 and described as ‘generous’. It seems that the Digger’s real motive was to still unease in high places over the friendship of Coole (head of a key dept) and Palmer (a leading negotiator for the Sun hacks union).

But why was the axe so long in coming? Lamb (Larry né Albert and editorial director of the rag) had been aware of their friendship for a couple of years and in any case there had never been a charge of a security leak.

It seems that the friendship only came to the notice of the Dirty Digger on a fleeting pre-Christmas visit to his London goldmine. He immediately ordered their dismissal.

Now back in New York, fear stalks the corridors of the Digger’s latest purchase, the moribund New York Post, a PM paper which sells under 500,000.

No doubt they have heard the latest example of the Digger’s Wit & Wisdom.

After taking a head count of the News of the World editorial room on his visit, Digger asked editor Bernard Shrimsley why he had to employ such a bloated staff. 

‘Why,’ said the Digger, ‘it’s twice as big as the gang on the Post – and half of them are being sacked for Christmas.’

Lord Drone writes: Bob Coole was still freelance subbing on the Daily Express up to a few months before his death in 2010 aged 80. He is greatly missed.

21st January 1977

Grovel: Editor David English, the man who sprays his hair with setting lotion before appearing on radio programmes, has cancelled all leave on the Daily Mail for the advent of the tabloid Daily Getsmuchworse next week.

Blood and saliva have been dribbling from English’s lips as he hollers round his office: ‘We’ll get them, we’ll get them!’

What does he mean?

Auberon Waugh’s Diary

There is a photograph in today’s Daily Express of a plump, homely middle-aged woman in slacks and bedroom slippers sitting on a sofa. She is not topless or anything like that, but I find myself eyeing her appreciatively and wondering whether we have not perhaps met somewhere before.

Then I look at the caption and find myself reeling back in amazement: ‘A relaxed Mr Heath at his home.’

It says much for Jean Rook’s tact – or perhaps for her short-sightedness – that she conducted the interview without apparently noticing anything different. But she may have suspected something was up when she reports her interviewee as saying: 

‘It’s a bit late isn’t it? What people … think I am. And what I have always been.’

Jean comments: ‘And it’s no good telling him, as he sits there chatty and relaxed in his sweater and slacks, the hell he was always like this.’

I suggest it is time the Daily Express bought Miss Rook a new pair of spectacles.

4th February 1977

The disastrous recycling of the Daily Getsmuchworse has already become the centre of an ‘It wasn’t me’ battle in the Black Glass Lubyanka. The conspicuous odd man out in this game of unmusical chairs is Jocelyn ‘Piranha Teeth’ Stevens, the short-tempered heir to two Fleet Street family fortunes. (Total £6million which is not invested in the Beaverbrook Triple Titanic.)

To Piranha falls the credit in the Great Tabloid Cock-up. He it was who decided to spring the whole operation on the directors of Express Newspapers with five weeks warning.

The relaunching [of the Daily Express] is the latest in a long series of Stevens’ initiatives.

At a recent meeting with NUJ representatives Piranha launched into an hysterical attack on his subordinates. The group’s editors, he said, were worse than useless. ‘From now on,’ he stormed, ‘editors will have to do what they are told.’ 

Piranha referred to his ‘anguish over all the shit we’ve had to publish in the last three years’. As an example of editorial incompetence he instanced the fact that the Daily Getsworse had, despite his orders, written about £100 dresses on the fashion page. He seemed unmoved when it was pointed out that the particular feature had been his own brainwave.

Following this bunker-style outburst, there was a mandatory meeting of the NUJ Chapel which voted 126-0 their complete confidence in the Express editor Roy Wright.

A further sign of Piranha’s growing megalomania is the fact that no-one, apart from him, had any say in the decision to make the Express a tabloid. Even Chairman Biggles was not consulted, nor were the directors. Three weeks before the announcement was made, Piranha had given a categorical assurance to the printing unions that there was no question of a tabloid.

The morale of the unfortunate Roy Wright was not improved by the hiring of eccentric Marxist thinker Col. Bruce Page, who finally succumbed to a desperate appeal from ageing trendy Sir Charles Mostyn-Wintour to ‘come and save the Express’. The Colonel, it is thought, will now try to lure away his old chums on the Sunday Times. However, confidence in the Colonel’s powers of judgement has waned considerably since his dramatic attack on Dame Harold Evans, whom he accused of sending John Swain to his death in Ethiopia. The Colonel’s zeal was proved to be misplaced when Swain was found to be alive and well.

Stevens’ loyalty to his chairman, Sir Max ‘Biggles’ Aitken, is also an uncertain quantity. At the November dinner of the 30 Club, a monthly gathering of advertisers and media men, he was heard to state in his normal fortissimo. ‘Christ, I am angry with him’, as his employer left the room. The assembled investors were appropriately impressed by this public display of loyalty.

Further displays of Piranha’s judgement occurred when the Express invested £8million in outdated equipment which has caused nothing but trouble since it was installed. Naturally, Piranha blames all the ensuing problems on his editors.

A Psychiatrist writes:

One of Piranha’s eccentric habits is to boast to his friends that Lord Gnome is in his pay. If this is so he has obviously been rather forgetful of late. For it has to be reported that his wife Jamie is threatening to leave him for David Davies, 35-ish director of the MEPC property group. This could explain his ‘hyperactivity syndrome’.

4th March 1977

Grovel writes: The eccentric Col. Bruce Page, lured to the Daily Getsmuchworse by ageing trendy Sir Charles Mostyn-Wintour, tells me he is now the highest-paid journalist in Fleet Street.

The Colonel, who recently accused Dame Harold Evans of manslaughter, says he is paid £15,000 a year for only six months’ work.

18th March 1977

Grovel: The Daily Express/Daily Mail sniping is even nastier than has been reported.

The Express sister paper, under the direction of canny melodeon-playing Scot John Junor, has been digging into the mystery of the Mail’s missing managing director John Golding, who was in charge of collecting money for the Vietnam orphans. 

Junor’s hacks have interviewed several people – and upset Mail executives by telephoning them at home.

This is a disgraceful thing to do. If the day has come when a man in charge of orphans’ money can’t disappear off the face of the earth then we have come to a pretty pass.

*****

With ‘Biggles’ once again in hospital suffering from a second stroke, affairs at the Black Lubyanka are getting increasingly out of hand with the Mad Piranha lashing out in an increasingly desperate fashion.

Last week saw the departure of Assistant Editor Robin Esser, as well as Brian Nicholson, Piranha’s joint Managing Director. Nicholson, it is believed, could no longer endure the behaviour of his colleague.

Meanwhile the ludicrous affair of the cartoonist Cummings – sacked on Monday and reinstated on Friday – has not enhanced the prestige either of Piranha or the equally disastrous Sir Charles Mostyn Wintour, who is intent on ‘trendifying’ the Getsworse.

It now seems clear that the relaunching of the paper has been a disaster and the circulation has sunk back nearly to what it was before the tabloid came into existence.

Piranha will put the blame for this on everyone but himself, and more heads are expected to roll.

1st April 1977

Grovel writes: The megalomania which seems to go with any top Beaverbrook Newspaper post has overcome Sir Charles Mostyn-Wintour, who rejoices in the somewhat hollow title of Daily Getsmuchworse Managing Editor, a role he assumed on leaving the Evening Standard editorship in January.

In an effort to stop Executive Editor Robin Esser from deserting the sinking ship (he joins the Evening News in May), Mostyn-Wintour has offered him the job of Deputy Editor. This is the post thought to be held by Jeremy Deedes, 33, for just ten weeks.

Meanwhile, Sir Charles is keeping close tabs on his former fief.  In the Londoner’s Dairy of March 17 a lengthy item appeared, with a flattering picture, of Ms Audrey Slaughter, over 41 editor of Over 21 mag.

The flame-haired temptress, wrote Londoner (alias Max ‘Hitler’ Hastings), had been asked by Weight Watchers to edit an eponymous magazine and disclosed that the first issue in April would carry a feature ‘Sex gets Better As You Slim.’ The basis of this article is thought to have been researched at the NI eyrie shared by Ms Slaughter and Sir Charles, both of whom have shed lbs in recent weeks.

Sir Charles is 60 soon.

*****

An unseemly dispute has broken out over the IPC Press Photographer of the Year Award to David Cairns of the Daily Getsmuchsmallerandworse. Apparently, one of the snaps submitted by Cairns – a former Scottish high-jump champion, no less – of Brenda [the Queen] jumping into a barge, was first published three years ago. 

He sneaked it in on the grounds that it was reprinted last year, albeit stamp-sized, in Hickey.

The Mirror, who were miffed in any case that their pictorial wizards were left our of the honours, says it is a clear breach of the rules and are pressing for the disqualification of Cairns.

1st April 1977 

Street of Shame

Has Piranha Teeth finally gone mad? This is the question on the lips  of every hack on the Daily Getsmuchworse as their Chief Executive foams around the building.

Here are extracts from Piranha’s latest address to his staff:

March 23, 1977

DAILY EXPRESS AND SUNDAY EXPRESS

CHAPEL BULLETIN

THINGS YOU OUGHT TO KNOW

There was a consultative committee meeting in Manchester on March 14 and the Chief Executive said – in part:

‘It (the tabloid) was an immensely successful launch. We have a very strong increase in circulation in the commuter belts.

‘...The figure is now falling, however. The paper is criticisable editorially. It is dull. It would succeed on journalistic flair if we had any.

‘The Mail is a better 8p’s worth. The Express is simply not worth 8p every day at the moment. It’s a lot of money. Editorial changes suggested by the editor are being blocked by the NUJ. One block after another has been put up against him.

‘If the circulation falls much below 2.5million and we are forced to continue producing a bad paper, there will be no paper. All I can do is move editors around, but it makes no difference. After the dust of the launch has died down we are suffering. The February figures were very good, however (2,648,000 average). The ad booking for the future looks astonishingly good.

‘At the moment I am feeling very grim about the future sale of the Daily Express, but I am not giving up at the moment.

‘I am an angry man. I am unsure whether it is worth going on. Our internal battles are inexcusable. I can’t get London chapels to understand our crisis. There are too many people making too much money. There is excessive greed (sic).

‘I am getting desperate personally and corporately. The pressure is getting intolerable, I haven’t had a holiday this year and there is no prospect of my having one.

‘I am desperate and bitter but I am not giving up. We may be entering the final chapter of this company. I want that recorded.

‘The NUJ resolutions last Friday were the resolutions of madmen.’ (These were in support of cartoonist Cummings and opposition to JAK cartoons appearing a day late in the Daily Express.)

It has now been revealed that Piranha will, after all, take a two-week holiday.

A doctor writes: Two weeks is not enough.

15th April 1977

Grovel writes: Ageing juvenile Sir Charles Mostyn Wintour has gained another foothold in the ailing Getsmuchworse. He has demanded – and got – a smart new office in the Lubianka, with a splendid view of Fleet Street.

His new quarters are fitted with potted palms and suchlike and have been redecorated in rather charming pastels.

The fact that the previous occupants of the office – Beaverbrook’s legal bores Andrew Edwards and John Fitzgerald – have been booted out to an inferior cubbyhole at the back of the building does not seem to worry Sir Charles one jot.

‘I needed something at the front of the building,’ he confesses, ‘so that I could get a good view of the Lord Mayor’s Show.’

*****

That silly man Mere Harmsworth says he might not start a new Sunday paper after all. He is going to get his hands on the fat Sunday Express soon anyway and there is no point in starting up a paper to compete with that money-spinner.

His dear wife Pat says she remains a force to be reckoned with in the empire. Did I know that it was she, and she alone, who persuaded the management to recover the battered manure-coloured Mini driven by the paper’s gossip hack and replace it with a gleaming yellow Rover?

29th April 1977

Grovel writes: Last week Harold Macmillan was telephoned by a reporter from the Daily Express.

‘Which paper did you say you were from? growled the statesman.

‘The Daily Express, sir,’ said the obsequious hack.

‘Mmm, I thought you were finished,’ quipped Supermac, 83.


13th May 1977

Grovel: Even widows can hope for better treatment than that meted out to the estranged wives of former Fleet Street editors Sir Charles Mostyn-Wintour (The Evening News Standard) and Alastair Hetherington (Grauniad).

Rejected in favour of flame-haired temptress Audrey Slaughter, nearly 50 editress of Over 21 mag, Mrs Nonie Wintour is being forced to put her Southampton Row penthouse on the market and has bought a two-roomed garret in Balham, gateway to the South.

The equally delectable Miranda Hetherington – whose egregious and errant spouse has hightailed it to Glasgow where he is Controller, BBC Scotland at £13,000 pa – has taken a course to become a social services officer and is moving from their Dulwich mansion to a seedy billet in paw-paw South-East London.


13th May 1977

Death by three thousand hacks

eyetoon


The central problem behind the crisis over London’s evening newspapers is very simple and not very widely understood. It is that Beaverbrook Newspapers cannot for very much longer pay the bill for the paper on which the Evening Standard and the Daily and Sunday Express are printed on. Indeed, many doubt whether the group can pay its paper bill now. Hence the desperate need for some quick cash. The ‘pride of the Aitkens’, often cited in the press as the ‘stumbling block’ to a sell-out of the Standard (and the Express) comes to little when the pockets of the Aitkens are empty.

The attraction of the offer from the Harmsworth family, which owns the Daily Mail and the Evening News, was that £5million would come in quick. But there is another attraction, not so heavily publicised. It is that the Mail and the News will in due course move into Beaverbrook’s brand new offices in Fleet Street and be printed on Beaverbrook’s brand new machines. This would leave an enormous block of territory between Fleet Street and the Embankment for the developers come the next property-swindle boom, which is expected any day now.

eyemap

 Our map, which the Eye printed in 1971, shows some of the blocks owned by the Harmsworths in this prime area of London, soon to be serviced by a new Tube line. There are rumours of frantic activity in Harmsworth’s property department as more and more sites are quietly snapped up. The net gain for Harmsworths from the Big Deal is expected to be of the order of £80million and if Beaverbrooks can get a bit of that action, their sentimentality for the Daily Express is likely to fade.

Until a fortnight ago this merger seemed inevitable. The heart-rending statements of both chairmen had been worked out for the ‘historic’ Bonnington Hotel meeting on April 28, when the news was to be taken to the unions. Then came the last-minute intervention of Sir James Goldsmith. Mere Harmsworth, the Mail’s chairman, spent an anxious weekend in Paris with Sir James on the weekend after his intervention in which he pleaded with the food millionaire to clear out and leave the lolly to the Harmsworths and the Aitkens.

Goldsmith refused, which explains Harmsworth’s hysterical blackmail threat to the Standard’s workers – that his offer of £5,000,000 was only open for a fortnight, after which it might have to be lowered. With £80million at stake and merchant bankers Warburgs hired for the battle, it is unlikely that there is any depth to which the Harmsworths (and the Aitkens) will not sink to beat Goldsmith off and close their newspapers.

At the moment the journalists on the Evening Standard are opposed to the News/Standard merger, but even this opposition may prove fickle. At the first meeting of Standard journalists following rumours of the merger the editor, Simon Jenkins, spoke in fatalistic terms. ‘What must be must be,’ was his line. Maybe, he mused, the new London paper could be better than the Evening Standard. At that stage Jenkins, bright, ambitious 34-year-old, was fairly sure that the obvious choice as editor of the new paper was Simon Jenkins, the bright, ambitious 34-year-old.

However, on learning that this was not Harmsworth’s plan, Jenkins stormed back to his office and wrote his memorandum to all of his staff urging a backs-to-the-wall defence of the Standard. ‘The ship,’ the memo ended, ‘must not be allowed to sink.’ Helped by Charles Wintour, his predecessor and current director of Beaverbrook, Jenkins has now managed to create a Dunkirk atmosphere in the Standard in which the hopes of a free and independent press are pinned on Sir James Goldsmith and Cavenham Foods.

It seems a fairly hopeless quest, Goldsmith is not much of a match for a combined Harmsworth/Beaverbrook hunting party with the smell of £80million in their nostrils. Sir James will probably get a good look at something he has wanted for some time – a good look at how Fleet Street finances work. And the Aitkens may use the Goldsmith bid to clobber the unions. Associated will get Beaverbrook and their £80million. About 2,500 newspaper workers will get the sack. And Simon Jenkins, 34, will be looking around for a job suitable to a man of his station.

****

Doubts about the Goldsmith offer revolve on two main points:

  1. Cavenham’s ability to match the finance available from Associated Newspapers.
  2. The ultimate destination of control in a Cavenham dominated Beaverbrook and its possible implications.

The Goldsmith plan seemingly involves Cavenham giving a guarantee to the bank of up to £5,000,000 to cover Beaverbrook’s overdraft and injecting a subsequent substantial sum for new voting shares giving it control.

Clearly, Beaverbrook would also need further infusions of cash unless it could make a rapid turn-round to profits.

Cavenham itself has cash assets of over £100,000,000. However it also has borrowings on £182,000,000, close to half of which are of a short-term variety. Also, an international group like Cavenham requires large cash resources for its own business.

So Cavenham is by no means a source of massive funds to pump into Beaverbrook. Furthermore, such a proposal may not be totally to the liking of the independent directors of Cavenham who have built it up as a food combine.

What then of Goldsmith’s French master company, Generale Occidentale, which controls Cavenham? The 1976 GO accounts show not much in the way of actual cash. Most of the group’s assets are tied up in its investments. Some, such as Cavenham, are worthwhile but others, such as Anglo-Continental and Argyle Securities, are less so. But all (like 40% of Beaverbrook non-voting shares) are easily realisable at short notice.

GO’s banking subsidiary Banque Occidentale, has assets of £170,000,000. But part of this comes in the form of deposits from Cavenham and other group companies while much of the rest is from the money market and so not GO’s own cash. 

GO also needs finance to support its several less successful operations. Furthermore, in the event of it coming back with a further cash bid for the Cavenham minority (instead of forming some new holding company to acquire both companies), it might need to find up to £80,000,000 in cash. Therefore, unless all or part of Cavenham was subsequently sold off – a possibility – GO’s financial resources would seem to be far from unlimited too.

The possibility of Cavenham being totally owned by GO would mean that Beaverbrook too, in the event of Goldsmith obtaining control, would end up also being controlled by a French company – something that super-patriot the late Lord Beaverbrook could never have foreseen, never mind welcomed.

It is worth considering for that reason the explanation Goldsmith gave in January for wanting to buy out the remaining Cavenham shares.

‘Not much is done to make things enjoyable for chairmen of public companies. They tend to be targets and I see no reason why they should put up with it. Now we are very much following a policy that we should paddle our own canoe in private.’ (Financial Times, January 29.)

The combination of labyrinthine corporate structure shrouded in legal mystery with Goldsmith’s desire for privacy may not reassure all Beaverbrook shareholders, especially as control of their fate would be beyond British shores and possibly British laws. How could Beaverbrook prevent the sale of control to a buyer outside France? Ironically, the Paris government does not allow such a risk. Goldsmith had tried to buy control of L’Express through a French subsidiary of GO, as only a French company can own a French newspaper.

In this context Beaverbrook personnel may well contemplate the implication that the life-giving cash transfusion would come from ‘one of his (Goldsmith) companies or in association with other financial groups’.

27th May 1977

STREET OF SHAME

One major obstacle to the Goldsmith/Rowland takeover of the Daily Getsmuchworse has so far gone unrecorded.

It is the surprising animosity with which Sir Max Aitken regards Goldsmith. Last year Aitken, not normally a man of strong likes or dislikes, confided to a fellow Beaverbrook director that he considered Goldsmith ‘the most sinister man in public life today’.

Biggles’s view will no doubt have been strengthened by his legal adviser, the Blessed Arnold Goodman. Goodman, too, regards Goldsmith with extreme hostility. At the time of the Observer sale last November Goodman was heard telling Observer hacks that it would be better for the paper to go bust than to be sold to Goldsmith. 

It was as a result of a leak from Goodman to Aitken that the Daily Express story ‘It’s Lord Goldsmith’ appeared, thus leading to a furore which sabotaged the Goldsmith peerage.

*****

Grovel writes: In the echoing halls of Chateau Despair there is still, occasionally, a spark of the old Beaver spirit. One of their photo hacks, an unpleasant man called Steve Wood, has perfected a trick which infuriates Express rivals.

When along with rivals he attends a ‘photo-call’ – the picturing of the absurd Princess Marie Astrid was one recent occasion – Wood has made it his habit to return to the subject after all the other lensmen have been chased away. He then bursts into tears. 

He explains, in choked voice, that his camera wasn’t working. If he does not get a new session – alone – he will be sacked. So far this stratagem has not failed.

10th June 1977

Grovel writes: Anxious hacks at the Daily Getsworse wondering what will happen to the paper if Sir J Goldsmith takes over need look no further than L’Express, the French magazine now Goldsmith-owned. The issue of 16th May carries a massive eight-page interview with the eccentric philosopher M. Edward Goldsmith on the subject of ‘L’Ecologie’.

*****

I hear that tubby Scottish hack Peter MacKay, believed to be editor of the William Hickey column, has gone too far this time.

McHackey revealed that Centre Point owner Harry J (for Jack) Hyams had been carousing in the South of France with model Aldine Honey while his wife Kay did the hoovering at Ramsbury Manor, their £3million Wiltshire estate.

Hyams was duly enraged at being exposed, especially as his host in the South of France was Maxwell Aitken, son of Biggles and heir to the Beaverbrook pennies. 

McHackey’s dreams of an early retirement may yet come true.

*****

Will Sir Charles Mostyn-Wintour have his knighthood confirmed in Brenda’s new Honours List on Saturday?

If so, it will help to cheer the old roué up.

For the news is that the Dirty Digger’s first question on being asked to help out Biggles was ‘Will I be able to sack Wintour and Jenkins?’


Beaverbrook Newspapers has been taken over by the hotel and shipping group Trafalgar House.


8th July 1977


The first move of Victor Matthews on becoming executive chairman of Beaverbrook Newspapers was to issue a statement expressing his confidence in the existing ‘top management’ (The Times, July 1).

Any feelings of relief this may call forth in Jocelyn ‘Piranha Teeth’ Stevens, (the retiring chief executive), Simon Jenkins et al may be ill-founded. When Matthews and Nigel Broakes took over Cunard Steamships in 1971 they provided the serving chairman, Sir Basil Smallpeice, with a written undertaking not to initiate ‘widespread redundancies among senior staff’. Within four months seven directors and eight senior managers had been sacked.

Matthews is normally the hatchet man of the duo, Broakes providing the chubby charm. Matthews was named in court during the corruption trial of Maurice Byrne, ex-Mayor of Pontefract, as being one of those at Trafalgar House who knew about bribes of some £30,000. At the end of the trial a senior police officer described the evidence as ‘only the tip of the iceberg’. (D.Express 28.6.73)

(At the end of the trial a QC acting for Trafalgar told the court: ‘Any suggestion that Trafalgar or its directors knew of or condoned any of these unlawful payments is emphatically denied.’)

However, no action was taken against the then managing director of Trafalgar House who has admitted in the witness box to paying £750 in used pound notes to a North East councillor.

Readers of the new D. Express should recall Matthews’ background when reading such of his statements as: ‘I am glad that the Daily Express is a campaigning newspaper … and I hope it will identify itself closely with the interests of the wealth-producing people of this country.’

And an editorial in the new ‘cheerful’ Daily Express (4 July) claimed: ‘ There is plenty of creative talent in this country. But too often it is embittered and deprived by penal taxation, time-consuming and arrogant bureaucracy, and restrictive practices.’

Much of Mathews’ own wealth was produced by the British taxpayer, which may explain his much-vaunted patriotism. It will be recalled that he acquired the Cunard shipping line as a tax-loss to fund his hotel chain and ‘property development’ which appeared to necessitate the paying of North East councillors with bundles of used pound notes.

The sort of ‘wealth-producing’ people that Matthews admires are much in evidence on cruises of Queen Elizabeth II, the Cunard flagship. For instance, in January 1975 the QEII set off on a round-the-world cruise costing up to £43,000 per passenger.

Notable among these ‘wealth producers’ was Sir Denis Lowson, a former Lord Mayor of London who had paid £28,000 for an upper-deck suite, undeterred by the fact that the Department of Trade and Industry were inquiring into his dealings and that he had been sued for the £2,350,000 he had syphoned out of his companies into his own and his relatives’ pockets.

*****

The outlook for Jocelyn ‘Piranha Teeth’ Stevens  under the new regime does not look to rosy. ‘Fingers’ Matthews is said to be advised by Peter Hetherington, the former financial manager of the Daily Express, who made a gallant attempt in April to sack the hyperactive Senior Executive and was himself sacked in a counter-coup.

Hetherington, an accountant, hurried round to Trafalgar with all his inside knowledge and was paid a fat fee to advise them on their bid. He is hoping to play a major role in any reshuffle.


22nd July 1977

Mr Victor ‘Fingers’ Matthews has told his boardroom colleagues at the Daily Express that he intends to sue Private Eye following the article in our last issue concerning the trial of Maurice Byrne, the ex-Mayor of Pontefract.

So far, however, no writ has been received by our lawyers. This situation, however, may be changed when ‘Fingers’ learns that we intend to publish further details of this unhappy episode in our forthcoming issue.


Street of Shame

Contrary to forecasts, Sir Charles Mostyn Wintour appears to be safely ensconced under the new regime at the Lubjanka.

It is ironical that Sir Charles, apostle of the Permissive Society, wearer of blue denim, and companion of flame-haired temptress Audrey Slaughter, has now become the right-hand man of Mr Victor ‘Forward with Britain’ Matthews who takes his view of such things from the Sunday Express leader column.

The Getsworse is being run buy a committee of four consisting  of Mostyn, Fingers, Piranha and poor Roy Wright who is supposed to edit the paper.

PS: Mostyn it was who wrote the manifesto which appeared when Trafalgar took over the paper.

*****

‘Fingers’ Matthews was not in his seat at the Getsmuchmorecheerful for 24 hours when he was behaving like a true Press Lord – shoving in ‘puffs’ for his friends.

That is why the Hickey column carried a curious item telling how Sir James Goldsmith had sent a telegram of congratulations to Fingers which meant that Goldsmith was a good loser.

Sadly not even sabotage on this item by the editorial and printing staff failed to work completely.

A printer was persuaded by McHackey to chip the ‘e’ of Sir James, making it ‘Sir Jams’. But, because a mistake had been made later in the item, and therefore had to be put right, the whole plug was reset and Sir Jams restored to Sir James in later editions.

*****

Where will Sir James strike next in the Street of Shame?

The most likely victim of a vulture-style swoop is the Grauniad, now suffering badly as a result of the recent increase in price to 15p.

The latest circulation figure is 271,000, a fall of 108,000 from the record peak of October 1974.

5th August 1977

Street of Shame

The massive fall in the circulation of the Daily Getsworse (down 6.7 per cent by 175,000 copies) must mean that a purge by ‘Fingers’ Matthews is nigh.

The first head to fall may be that of luckless editor Roy Wright.

Rumour has it that Fingers is considering replacing him with Kenneth Fleet, the former Daily Telegraph City Editor. Fleet is not altogether happy in his new job as editor of the Sunday Times Business News, where he has found himself at odds with Dame Harold Evans over several issues.

Fleet is one of the few senior journalists that Fingers knows. He has written extensively about Trafalgar.

*****

Meanwhile at the Black Lubjanka Victor Matthews only has to sneeze and a thousand handkerchiefs are produced by the obsequious hacks and management. Fingers happened to mention that he was not keen on income tax. Result: Three front-page anti-income tax splashes.

‘Piranha Teeth’ Stevens has been finding the going sticky. After dinner with Fingers they returned at an early-ish hour to the Getsmuchsillier.

Piranha said to his chauffeur and alter ego, Algy Goddard: ‘All right Algy. You can get a cab home now if you want. I’ll take the car.’

‘What do you mean, a cab?' quipped Fingers. ‘What’s wrong with buses and tubes?’

Algy was last seen sulking off to Blackfriars Underground station.

Fact: Fingers himself travels in a black Rolls-Royce – TRA 1. Its capacious tank holds 21 gallons of petrol.

PS: At a recent Thursday board meeting Fingers plaintively asked his fellow directors what he should do to end the stories about his past in the Eye. He was brusquely told to do nothing. The Eye’s inquiries continue.

*****

Grovel writes: In his haste to rid himself of his birthright, Sir Max Aitken took no precautions to secure his perks when he sold out Beaverbrook Newspapers to the egregious Vic Matthews and Trafalgar House.

The first act of Fingers on taking over the chairmanship – Biggles has become Life President – was to check the extent of his predecessor’s feather-bedding.

The list was impressive, even by Tiny Rowland’s standards. One ‘office’ Rolls-Royce, one ‘office’ Ferrari, one ‘office’ Jaguar XJS, all with chauffeur; a company flat in Westminster and two boat-hands at Cowes – worth an estimated £30,000 a year to Biggles.

‘Right,’ said Fingers, exercising his blue pencil. ‘That lot can go for a start.’

For his encore Fingers – who expressed his confidence at the time of the £14 million takeover in the top management – sacked Maxwell Aitken , a £22,000-a-year director of the family company.

Young Aitken, who has put in a 14-hour-a-day, six-day week since coming down from Cambridge six years ago, was somewhat curiously labelled a ‘parasite’ by the Old Vic.

18th August 1977

Grovel writes: The former William Hickey, Richard Berens, currently in exile breeding one-legged chickens in the London suburbs, lives in hope of a recall to power. Keen students of form will have noted that  one Henry Berens, a distinguished banker and not entirely unrelated to the disgraced ex-Hickey, runs the Trafalgar House Pension Fund. And Berens, who is not over-imbued with the milk of human kindness towards his ex-workmates, would be quite happy to take a well-paid, hard-working and rewarding post with Fingers Matthews – something like Chief Executioner.

Street of Shame

It was most ungrateful of Victor ‘Fingers’ Matthews to sack Roy Wright, the editor of the recently-purchased Daily Express.

Once last month, when the House of Commons published its report on MPs connected with John Poulson, an Express hack wrote a leader suggesting that three MPs implicated (including Maudling) should resign.

At the last moment Roy Wright turned down the article, saying: ‘For all we know Victor Matthews may have been tied up with Poulson.’

*****

The post-Victor Matthews line at the Getsmuchworse  is Patriotism (‘the worst refuge of the scoundrel, Dr Johnson). The new worm D. Jamison [sic] does not seem to be the kind of man to over-rule this.

At the Mirror he was known as a sub-editor who maintained the sales of the Northern issue by concentrating on sport. He is thought to be ‘a bit of a Max Bygraves’ (ie: One who is a bit of a professional Cockney; one who ‘overdoes it’ or ‘comes on a bit strong’, making remarks like, ‘Well, Cock, what would me muvver fink abaht it?’ at editorial meetings.

This became too much for the genuine hacks at the Mirror who christened their colleague ‘Linguaphone’.

Sad to relate, Jameson’s old friends at the Mirror did not seem desolated by his departure.

On Thursday last week, the security guards had orders not to allow him into the building. The ‘cockney’ hack had to receive his cards from a secretary who brought them down to him in the street.

*****

Victor Bleeder has, of course, no commitment to continue producing the Standard. He has now warned the hacks that if they do not start making money the paper will be closed. Richard Bourne, dep. ed. and known as ’the Dreaming Spire’, staggered away from his first encounter with The Bleeder looking astoundingly ashen-faced.

2nd September 1977

Grovel writes: Pandora Stevens tells me her daddy was only given three months at the Daily Express under Fingers Matthews, and is now casting his mad blue eyes towards America in the event of being fired. Jocelyn is certainly having a lively time with the new editor Derek ‘What’s up Cock?’ Jameson.

Jameson decided to make a nipple breakthrough in the Express to coincide with a society piece on the betrothal of Prince Rainier’s 20-year-old daughter Caroline by publishing pictures of the young lady without a bikini top … (taken from approximately two miles away by Long-Tom Lens). 

What Jameson ignored was that Rainier had earlier decided to take part in the Daily Express Motorfair.

When he saw his topless daughter, he pulled out in fury. Piranha went up the wall but the demonic Jameson laughed the matter off.

*****

Here is the order of play in the wonderful world of newspapers. David English is to go to the States to become editor of Harmsworth’s latest acquisition Esquire.

Roy Wright, sacked editor of the Getsmuch worse (£50,000 pay-off) is to be the new editor of the Daily Mail, in English’s place. [Drone note: This is not entirely accurate: English continued as Mail editor until 1992 when he became chairman and editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers. Nobody ever did hear what happened to Wright who vanished without trace. Can anyone fill in the blanks?]

*****

Full marks to City vintner Geoffrey Van Hay, owner of Fleet Street’s most exclusive club, Scribes. He has banned Derek Jameson, editor-designate of the Getsalottrashier. 

The exclusion of the egregious Jameson is a notable double for Van Hay who, when he was the manager of El Vino’s, managed to bar the loud-mouthed lout from that establishment as well.

16th September 1977

Tales spread by the new Daily Getsalottrashier (but only in  Manchester) Derek ‘Pearly’ Jameson that he is an orphan do not ring true at the Daily Mirror, his former place of employment.

His mother used to call him there frequently making sure her little boy was not being overworked, was eating regularly, had clean underclothes, etc.

*****

Grovel writes: Barrie Devney, industrial editor of the Daily Getsmuchworse, was booted out of his bedroom during the Jamboree spree at Blackpool. [The TUC conference].

The cuckoo who ousted him from his emotional nest was Piranha who had come to Blackpool in an effort to settle his newspaper’s industrial stoppage.

The thirsty Piranha, with the help of the drastically-emotional print union Mafia (Bill McCloughlin, engineers; Bill Keys, SOGAT; Reg Birch, (AUEW executive) consumed the entire contents of Devney’s drinks cabinet.

Devney had the galling experience of having to hammer on his own bedroom door to find out what was happening.

The hapless corps eventually dossed down on a colleague’s bedroom carpet.

28th October 1977

The new-look daily Getsmuchworse appears to have made yet another in its series of monumental cock-ups. On 24th September the Express took up the whole of its front page with ‘The Picture Scoop of the Year’ – a picture of detective apprehending bank robbers in Seven Sisters Road. No photographic credit was given for the story.

The next day, the Sunday Times showed that the photo must have been taken from at least 18 feet above the ground. This cast some doubt on the Express’s version that ‘the photos were taken by a passer-by who happened to be on the spot completely by chance’. The Sunday Times implied that the photos were taken by the police although Scotland Yard denied this.

On 27th September the Express took up editorial space to lambast the Sunday Times for daring to suggest that the pictures might have come from the police. ‘Rubbish. They (the photos) came to us privately from a person who wished to remain anonymous.’

Unfortunately, on 14th October 1977, the Daily Telegraph and other papers disclosed that ‘a detective sergeant attached to No 9 Regional Crime Squad has been suspended following an inquiry by Scotland Yard’s complaints investigation bureau into photographs showing a police ambush outside a bank and publication in the Daily Express last month’. This item of news was NOT reported in the Express.

Plus ça change?

*****

Grovel writes: Victor ‘Fingers’ Matthews has been causing consternation among the wretched hacks at the Evening Standard.

Last week a get-together was organised to enable him to meet his new employees. Shock scenes ensued.

When Fingers was introduced to world-famous cartoonist Jak, the following exchange took place:

Mostyn [Charles Wintour]: This is Jak, Mr Chairman.

Fingers: Jack who?

A tearful Milton Shulman left the gathering blubbering, ‘I’ve worked for this paper for 20 years and he’d never even heard of me.’

Later Fingers was physically assaulted by ‘Mad’ Frank Dickens, the tired and emotional creator of Bristow.

The Cockney Chairman has meanwhile been seen seeking consolation in traditional comforts.

He sends his whiskered chauffeur up the Mile End Road in the 21-gallon Rolls-Royce to purchase portions of jellied eel.

11th November 1977

A most curious leader appeared in the Daily Getsmuchmorewonderful last week.

On the morning the miners’ story broke the leader instead concerned itself with the behaviour of the Arabs in London, and came to the conclusion that they were idle, selfish, underserving and awful people to deal with.

Who do you suppose was the author of this amazing, unsigned attack?

I will tell you.

Victor ‘Fingers’ Matthews, a non Arab.

25th November 1977

Fingers Matthews is not at all pleased with anti-royal stories or articles in his papers.

When the Daily Getsmuchworsethananyonethoughtpossible said that Prince Philip ought to keep his nose out of public affairs, Fingers complained to his faithful Scottish retainer John Junor (Ed. Sunday Express).

JJ promptly published a paragraph praising the Duke in the Sunday Express.

9th December 1977

Grovel writes: Colleagues at the Getsworse ruefully recall editor Sid Jameson’s expansive promise on taking over.

‘My door is always open,’ the Pearly King assured the hacks. 

I understand that this is indeed the case and that the door is permanently ajar.

The only trouble is that Sid is never inside.

23rd December 1977

Grovel writes: In time for Christmas, my friend Victor ‘Fingers’ Matthews has given his bewhiskered chauffeur the bullet.

Just to rub it it, the poor fellow is to get the boot from his tied cottage in the grounds of Chateau Finger.

Whiskers was not sacked for laziness, as usual in such cases.

He was dismissed for being tired and emotional.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT:

Not only did whiskered Tom pump 21 gallons of premium fuel into the Finger-mobile (a Rolls Royce) every other day, but he also stashed a further 15 gallons in Army-style cans in the boot.

*****

There will be no Sunday Express this Sunday (Christmas Day).

Nevertheless canny melodeon-playing editor John Junor, in a fit of Christmas cheer, has insisted that every single member of the staff do a full working week.


© 2005-2017 Alastair McIntyre