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October 11, 2006updated 22 Nov 2022 9:19pm

Kelvin MacKenzie: Old Mac opens up

By Press Gazette

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie says Janet Street-Porter would need to pay £4.7million to join him in a night of passion and that if he had one “bucket of shit” left, he would pour it over fellow ex-Sun editor David Yelland.

In an interview with his former reporter Rob McGibbon, featured in this week’s Press Gazette, MacKenzie says Street-Porter would “be willing” and that he has calculated the figure based on “loss of reputation, the negative impact on future earnings etc”.

He adds: “For that kind of return I suspect even my nearest and dearest would applaud.”

MacKenzie, who thinks his time on The Sun had a “positively downhill” impact on journalism, says of his successor David Yelland, “I don’t really hate him or anything, but I know it drives him mad when I have a dig.”

Discussing his current Sun column, he describes his style as ”vile”, saying “I want to get the Lonsdale Belt for vile and be personally rude to as many people as possible.”

MacKenzie adds that he thinks The Sun should have the £1million returned, which was lost to Elton John in a libel case under his reign.

In 1987, The Sun had falsely alleged that the singer had his “vicious Rottweiler dogs” silenced by a "horrific operation” to remove their larynges.

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He says: “Bloody Elton John. I think The Sun should have its million quid back. It hasn’t damaged him at all, has it?

“Libel can only have a value if there has been some kind of damage, right? Where is the damage? Where? There’s nothing wrong with him. So no, I don’t feel bad about him, not at all.”

He pleads “not guilty” to allowing lies to be printed in The Sun while he was editor.

He says: “When I published those stories, they were not lies. But I don’t really think of it all in the way you suggest. They were great stories that later turned out to be untrue — and that is different.”

He adds: “What am I supposed to feel ashamed about?”

MacKenzie does not blame Rupert Murdoch for his tumultuous time at Sky, saying, “I was the bloody idiot. I did about six months and then wrote a ridiculous handwritten fax to Rupert basically telling him to shove the job.”

He describes the huge amount of debt he got into following this period, saying: “Financially, I had tossed myself out of the window.

“I took no incoming calls for about three months because there were creditors out there and, basically, I had to hide behind these rather large gates.

“It was a bloody nightmare. I was absolutely fucked. I was in considerable debt.”

He thinks Trinity Mirror made a mistake shutting down Live TV. Looking back at his time at the channel, he says: “I thought Live TV was utterly fantastic, a great opportunity, and Trinity Mirror made a horrendous hash by shutting it down.

“In today’s market, I reckon Live TV would be making around £12m a year and would be worth £200-250m.”

He admits he is not a good businessman, blaming his ego and confesses that as an editor he was “an unreasonable bastard”, saying: "Actually, I worked very hard to be unreasonable — I went to evening classes.

“Look I am not here to be helpful. I am here to help myself, right, so I have no regrets how I treated some people.”

He says he is “useless” at writing his column, which takes him a day and a half to complete. He explains, “at 21, I stopped writing and started making up headlines and laying out pages. So, I find writing a bizarrely difficult routine.”

He adds that he “tips his hat off to other column writers” who, as Sun editor, he treated “like Hitchcock treated actors —like cattle”.

McGibbon describes how MacKenzie’s “restless enthusiasm” and “bonkers humour” are still apparent as the man behind the legendary headlines like “Freddie Star ate my hamster”, approaches his 60th birthday.

The full interview appears in this week’s Press Gazette, and a web edit is available at RobMcGibbon.com.

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