Is Fleet Street fair to Express bosses?

And so, happy first anniversary, Richard Desmond.

Though, after a year as Express Group chairman, you could be forgiven for wondering what you have to do for Fleet Street to say something nice about you.

Never mind, it was ever thus. Lords Hollick, Stevens and Matthews were each the object of scorn. And when your greatest predecessor passed on, Mirror boss Cecil Harmsworth King rubbed hands and chuckled, "It’s not every day that Lord Beaverbrook dies".

So it should make your day to know that, behind your back, shrewd rivals talk warily of your business skills. True, they seem rather less impressed by your editorial skills, but then nobody’s perfect.

Under your chairmanship, sales of the Sunday Express may indeed have dropped to 876,421. Yet at least it now boasts a feature that all your peers turn to. That double-page Media spread guarantees you their attention. Does it matter that readers up and down the land don’t give a damn?

They surely remain unmoved that you reckon Viscount Rothermere’s empire is in trouble (and ought to cease lording it over Mister Desmond?) That Baron Black’s empire is in trouble (and ought to entrust the Telegraphs to you?). And that Sir Victor Blank’s Trinity Mirror empire is in trouble (and ought to sell you the Sunday People?).

Nor have you been overwhelmed by applause for imposing OK!-type columnists on the Daily Express. Are Vanessa Feltz, Anne Diamond, and Richard & Judy really fit to occupy pages once graced by great journalists such as Jean Rook, George Gale, Peter Hitchens, Jon Akass and Peter Tory?

But you certainly deserve credit for enabling your little Star to twinkle. Is it fair that cynics see its 14.70 per cent sales lift as increasing your customer base to promote your TV Fantasy Channel?

Not only do you enhance your revenue from "91Ú2 hours a night of Steamy Erotic Action," but you strike a blow for decency by promising punters that Fantasy will not be mentioned on their bank statements.

Nor, under your predecessors, did TV page listings guide readers to tune into such of your satellite delights as "Win My Dirty Knickers" (preceded by "Superdick" and followed by "Surf Bums").

Nor were they given a number to call "Red-hot Jaki" and discover what she is wearing at the school disco theme night.

And so, happy first anniversary, Richard Desmond (and happy 50th birthday too).

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