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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Daily Express"

Iain Dale: The Jenrick row. What would the Daily Mail have against the former owner of the Daily Express?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

One of the grubbier aspects of Robert Jenrick’s woes at the moment is the position of the Daily Mail.

Yesterday, it printed four pages of bile against the Communities Secretary, with articles headlined as follows: “He sweated under the glare like a saveloy in a chip shop” – “Riddle of his £830k home makeover planners refused” – “This haughty and reckless Minister is now a drag on the Tories”.

And it’s been like that for days. It’s quite clear that it has little to do with the rights and wrongs of the case. It’s all bound up with the fact that their arch enemy and rival, Richard Desmond, is the one who stands to gain from the housing development on the Isle of Dogs.

He is, of course, the owner of the Daily Express until 2018. Now, given that the Express is hardly the paper it used to be, and the Mail’s circulation is now many times that of the Express, you might think the Mail would ignore it, in the way that Waitrose wouldn’t worry about the competition from the local independent Minimart. But newspaper owners have long memories and carry grudges longer than elephants do.

The original accusation of “cash for favours” has quietly been dropped. I wrote in this column last week that no politician is likely to be bought for £12,000, especially when the money wasn’t even a donation in the conventional sense – it bought tickets at a fundraising dinner.

The trouble is that there has been a drip of information ever since, culminating in Robert Jenrick publishing 129 pages worth of emails, texts and letters between him and Desmond, or his department and Desmond.

And on Wednesday, The Times published what it thought was a massive new angle whereby Conservative councillors in Westminster were alleged to have overturned a planning decision on Jenrick’s Westminster home in 2014. He only became an MP in June 2014, so it’s not clear what the accusation is here.

Downing Street are standing by their man, just as they did with Dominic Cummings. The letter from the Cabinet Secretary to Steve Reed seeks to close the matter down, but the fact that it was sent only hours after Jenrick released all the different communications with Desmond probably didn’t help, and it certainly hasn’t ‘drawn a line’ under it all.

Jenrick expended a lot of political capital with his parliamentary colleagues over this three home lockdown situation back in April. He’s expended a lot more over the last few weeks. He must hope that Number Ten remains staunch and that there is nothing else for the Mail to latch on to. But the warning to other ministers is clear. And, frankly, it should always have been clear to Jenrick. When it comes to Desmond, sup with a very long spoon.

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The fourth anniversary of the Brexit referendum passed this week with comparatively little comment.

On the actually Brexitversary on Monday night, I made the mistake of doing a phone-in on it. I started off by saying that I didn’t want to refight the referendum, but I might as well have saved my breath.

Remainer after Remainer phoned in, all seemingly having been to the same debating school, where they had been taught not to engage in a debate and instead just barge their way through without any recognition that there might just possibly be another viewpoint. It was like going back in a time machine.

By the end of the hour I had almost lost the will to live. In real life, my experience is that most moderate Remainers have long ago come to terms with the fact that we have left, and it’s up to the whole country to make the best of it.

I’m far more optimistic than that. It’s not a case of tolerating the new post-Brexit world, it should be a matter of embracing it. And after Coronavirus is over (assuming it ever is), I think there will be new spirit of entrepreneurialism in this country, which will able us to do great things, both domestically and internationally.

I can’t prove it, and there always will be those who attribute any bad bit of economic bad news to Brexit, but I am genuinely excited about the future.

– – – – – – – – – –

The end is in sight. The Government has advised those of us in vulnerable groups that we can emerge from isolation from the beginning of August.

This means I can leave the comfy confines of my bedroom and resume broadcasting from a proper studio at last. It will have been 137 days since I last did that.

I’ve rather enjoyed broadcasting from home and recording lots of podcasts on Zoom, taking part in video conferences on Teams or BlueJeans, but I am relishing some degree of normality returning.

The one thing I am certainly not looking forward to is wearing a facemask from the moment I step on to the train at Tonbridge each day. But I guess I’ll get used to it. Because it will be part of what we now have to refer to as the ‘new normal’.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Establishment hated Beaverbrook, Churchill needed him

Max Beaverbrook: Not Quite a Gentleman by Charles Williams

Max Beaverbrook is one of the most entertaining figures ever to have sat in a British Cabinet. He did so twice, during both the First and the Second World Wars, despite being detested and distrusted by a large part of the Establishment.

And yet the Beaver, as he was known, has slipped almost into oblivion, a name but not much more to most people under the age of 70. This book performs the valuable task of bringing a strange and gifted figure once more before the public.

Charles Williams provides, at the start of this biography, a useful list of some of the people who loathed Beaverbrook. They included Kings George V and VI, Stanley Baldwin, Clement Attlee, Lords Alanbrooke and Curzon, Hugh Dalton, Ernest Bevin and “a large segment of the Canadian political and industrial establishments”.

But Winston Churchill decided he was just the man to put in charge of aircraft production in May 1940, and David Lloyd George entrusted propaganda to him in early 1918, when the Germans were gathering themselves for a last attempt at a knockout blow in the west.

Beaverbrook was an adventurer who spotted opportunities where others could only see problems; a businessman of genius whose early fortune was founded on attaining, by devious manoeuvres to which this author devotes too much attention, a near monopoly in Canadian cement.

He was born Max Aitken in 1879, the third son of the Reverend William Aitken, a Scottish Presbyterian minister who had emigrated to New Brunswick, in Canada, as there were no jobs going in Scotland. Max was a rebel who started out with nothing except a knowledge of the Bible, but who soon displayed astonishing gifts as a financier.

Having made large sums and a reputation for sharp practice in Canada, he moved to Britain, where in December 1910 he was elected Conservative MP for Ashton-under-Lyne. At the same time he made friends with Bonar Law, like him the son of a minister in New Brunswick, who the following year became Conservative Party leader.

Aitken was at the heart of the manoeuvres which at the end of 1916 saw Asquith supplanted as Prime Minister by Lloyd George, after which Aitken was raised to the peerage as the first Lord Beaverbrook.

The King was not pleased, nor were the upper reaches of the aristocracy. But Beaverbrook had taken control of The Daily Express, and was turning it into an enormous success, the greatest mid-market newspaper of its time, smart and popular and a source for its proprietor of great influence, for there could be no doubt who decided the editorial line.

Beaverbrook sent jolts of electricity through any outfit where he took control. He was a malicious bully who was also capable of great generosity, and who stood by friends when they got into trouble. He had a brilliant eye for talented subordinates.

He despised Stanley Baldwin, who dominated the Conservative Party for the 14 years after Bonar Law’s death in 1923. Baldwin tempted Beaverbrook into overplaying his hand, and gave him and his fellow press baron Lord Rothermere a bloody nose by accusing them of exercising “power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”.

It seemed as though Beaverbrook’s career, except as a newspaper proprietor and a writer of vivid and perceptive books about Lloyd George and other men of power he had known, might well be over. Then the nation turned to Churchill, an outsider in Conservative Party terms, and Churchill needed to recruit other outsiders who could help him to grip and dynamise Whitehall.

This is the most exciting part of Williams’s account. The pace quickens as Beaverbrook seeks to ensure that the RAF gets the planes it needs. He picks tremendous battles within the bureaucracy, threatens at frequent intervals to resign, but is told by the Prime Minister that he is indispensable.

For Churchill, Beaverbrook is a boon companion, a friend with whom in the darkest days of the war he can find relief from the almost intolerable burden of leadership, an ally who can be sent to negotiate with Stalin and Roosevelt, and who charms them too. Clementine Churchill, by contrast, regarded him with “lifelong distrust”.

The first sentence of this book reads:

“Lady Diana Cooper, in her day one of London’s leading society lionesses, described Max Beaverbrook as ‘this strange attractive gnome with an odour of genius about him’.”

The word “lionesses” will not do as a category in which to place Lady Diana. Nor is there any need for “in her day”. But the quotation which follows is wonderful.

This mixture runs through the book. Williams can be cloth-eared, but has a keen eye for good material. The dust jacket notes that he is 86. His industry puts many younger biographers to shame.

At times, however, it is excessive. He sketches more of the background to various early transactions than we really need, and this thoroughness is accompanied by a sense of responsibility which sometimes gets in the way of conveying his subject’s utter irresponsibility.

He is not unscrupulous enough to revel in Beaverbrook’s exploits. The author remarks that his own wife, Jane Portal, who got to know Beaverbrook in her capacity as Churchill’s secretary, “still describes him as ‘somebody you would instinctively walk away from’.”

Her instinctive reaction was right. Beaverbrook usually treated the women in his life, who were numerous, with cruel neglect once his eye had been attracted by new conquests.

To get an idea of how intolerable but also invigorating Beaverbrook was, the short sketch of him in old age by his great-nephew, Jonathan Aitken, published as the first essay in Heroes and Contemporaries (2006), is in some ways a better place to start.

Williams quotes an admirable description of Beaverbrook by Peter Masefield, who worked for him during the war:

“He was unlike any other man I ever knew. For all his foibles and tough exterior, he was at heart deeply sensitive and often lonely. Critical, thrusting, demanding, self-centred and intolerant, he could be kind and even generous, just as he could be hasty and vindictive. He could reverse passionate feelings within hours. He perpetually maintained a hard front, even when the man inside had softened. I often thought of the frightened little boy in Canada, whose Presbyterian father had drunk away the family’s slender funds.”

The religion mattered. Beaverbrook was steeped in it, and said it was better to be an evangelist than a cabinet minister or a millionaire. As a lapsed Calvinist, he suffered from deep feelings of guilt, and was profoundly hurt by the scathing reviews given to one of his last books, The Divine Propagandist, which attempted “to present the life of Jesus as it appears to worldly men of my generation”.

Williams touches on the religion, but does not convey how important it was. Perhaps that is an impossible task. Beaverbrook was good at covering his tracks, and in 1964, shortly before his death, had a lot of his personal papers burned.

He liked buying up other men’s papers, and controlling access to them during his lifetime, but there were strict limits to how mischievous the great mischief maker wanted anyone else to be at his own expense.

It is a pity he is not better known today, for among many other qualities, he was a remarkable journalist, who for over 60 years cultivated at his various houses a range of contacts of which most people could only dream, and was ruthless and vulgar enough to publish what they told him, except when he was covering up Churchill’s stroke or Tom Driberg’s trial for indecent assault.

Beaverbrook’s  refusal to treat the Establishment with the respect it believed it deserved was attractive to men of the Left such as Driberg, Michael Foot and A.J.P.Taylor.

But it was not attractive to Attlee. When Churchill said during the 1945 general election that a Labour government “would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo” – an accusation against his wartime coalition partner which was generally reckoned to have gone much too far – Attlee was quick to counter-attack, while at the same time exculpating Churchill, whom he liked and admired:

“The voice we heard last night was that of Mr Churchill, but the mind was that of Lord Beaverbrook.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com