A bitter row has broken out between two former Daily Mirror editors over the City Slicker insider share-dealing scandal at the paper.
This week the Press Complaints Commission rejected a request from Mirror editor turned media pundit Roy Greenslade to re-open its inquiry into the affair. But it did express "regret"
that it had been misled by Trinity Mirror over the level of shares in Viglen Technology bought by former Mirror editor Piers Morgan.
Greenslade said in his Evening Standard column on Wednesday that the misrepresentation of Morgan's share holding could have been calculated to save his head. He also separately called the Morgan-backed children's newspaper First News, launched last week, "a terrible disappointment".
Morgan, a major shareholder in Press Gazette, responded by calling Greenslade "a pathetic, tired old has-been" — and urged the PCC to investigate him.
Back in 2000 the PCC severely censured Mirror City Slicker columnists Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell, as well as Morgan over the affair. And in February this year, Bhoyrul and Hipwell were convicted of insider dealing.
Greenslade called for a new PCC inquiry as it emerged during Hipwell's trial that Morgan had bought £67,000 of Viglen shares, shortly before they were tipped in the paper, rather than £20,000, as reported in the 2000 PCC report.
Morgan has always maintained that he did not know about the tip.
Trinity Mirror told the PCC that it always knew the true value of Morgan's Viglen shares — but said it decided to keep this secret on the advice of its lawyers, Lovells, because the figure became "a touchstone of the veracity of Messrs Bhoyrul and Hipwell as to whether they could show independent knowledge of the total of £67,000."
The PCC this week described the logic behind Trinity Mirror's strategy as "weak", but said that if the company's motives were a cover-up it could have simply forced the PCC to suspend its inquiry pending the outcome of the Department of Trade and Industry's insider dealing investigation. It also said the "partial account" originally given by Trinity Mirror was "a matter of regret".
Morgan said: "Let me remind Press Gazette readers of Roy Greenslade's year-long record as editor of the Daily Mirror when there were disastrous circulation losses and, by his own admission, he faked a spot-the-ball competition — there was no ball on the grid so no reader could win the prize.
"I would like the PCC to reinvestigate that — which cost tens of thousands of Mirror readers a prize they competed for."
He said he has only been asked about his Viglen holding once by a journalist — when Suzy Jagger of the Telegraph asked him how many shares he had bought through his broker — to which he replied £20,000. He pointed out that the other £47,000 were bought via PEP saving accounts.
Quoting from an email he sent Greenslade some weeks ago, he said he was a "pathetic, tired old has-been eking out a miserable existence as a pointless media commentator".
Morgan further alleged that colleagues from Greenslade's tabloid journalism days "find his current lofty moral bishop position absolutely ridiculous", adding "he should just shut up and get a proper job."
When asked to respond, Greenslade said: "There's no dispute between us — I don't dispute the fact that he told the truth to the company. My dispute is that when the company put in false information to the PCC, he allowed the lie to linger.
"It's about lying by omission and not telling the truth in public about what he bought, and thereby minimising his offence."
He added: "The only reason the world knows about spot-the-ball is because I admitted at the first possible opportunity — it happened in 1990 and I admitted it in 1992."