Lord Rothermere, Dacre, Blunkett and Media Society’s Richard Lindley
In an astonishing scene at the Savoy hotel, two Labour Cabinet ministers heaped praise on the national news-paper editor their party loves to hate.
Chancellor Gordon Brown, on video, and Home Secretary David Blunkett, in person, joined three other editors and a columnist in telling a Media Society audience why they believed Associated editor-in-chief Paul Dacre should receive the society’s annual award.
Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley, Independent editor-in-chief Simon Kelner, the Daily Mail’s Lynda Lee-Potter and Time Europe editor Eric Pooley all added praise.
Blunkett, congratulating Dacre on 10 years as editor of the Daily Mail and five years “in charge of the whole lot”, paid tribute to the way in which he and his paper “can suss out what is the instinct of your readers, a man who loves to hate but actually reflects the best of journalism”.
Dacre ran a tight ship, said Blunkett, understanding those who read his newspaper and being able to provide them with quality journalism.
“It is the best you can expect, even though many of us would disagree with the editorials and the actual views expressed,” he maintained, adding: “You have been described as an editors’ editor and you are a leader in the field, someone who is able not only to maintain the audience and encapsulate the best of those who write well and engage them, but also to be able to understand the way in which Britain needs a free press to be able to challenge those of us who sometimes believe we are in power.”
Blunkett honoured him, he said, for not only being able to provide the best in journalism but the best of irritation to a Government Dacre “can’t resist poking the stick into. Paul, I think Britain owes you one. I owe you one – even if it’s a left hook.”
The Home Secretary also commended Dacre’s journalism. “From his first great international expose – his interview with Melinda Maclean, the wife of first the Communist spy [Donald] Maclean and then the Communist spy Philby, the first ‘reds in the bed’ expose, to his great campaigning journalism on behalf of the Stephen Lawrence family – Paul Dacre has devised, developed and delivered one of the great newspaper success stories of any generation.”
The Chancellor felt the Media Society was celebrating “someone of great journalistic skill, an editor of great distinction and someone of very great personal warmth”.
The warmth is not always on show for his staff. A perfectionist, Dacre in a rage is a formidable sight, according to his columnist Lynda Lee-Potter.
“Certainly the Daily Mail editorial floor around 6.30pm on a Friday evening is not a place for the fragile and over-sensitive. Undeniably the Daily Mail is not for wimps,” she asserted.
“But however hard Paul drives us, he drives himself 20 times harder. He was once asked what was the recipe for a successful newspaper and he said: ‘Talent, talent and talent’. In addition to his own towering talent, Paul has wisdom, vision and courage. Some of us love him.”
By Jean Morgan