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Thursday, 19 March 2009

One in the Eye

The one postal delivery of the day is made, and proof that Royal Mail still perform a useful function comes in the shape of Private Eye (we’re now on issue 1232, folks).

On the cover is another attempt to lighten up by the steadfast, sustainable, medium term defender of the colour Broon; away from the cover the mag is still mainly monochrome, as it was back in the 70s when I first became a regular reader.

The content is variable in its usefulness – those who know one end of The Railway from the other have long ago given up on seeing much more than newsgroup reheats and Branson bashing in “Signal Failures” – but every so often it gets the stories out that others miss, or would rather not pursue. It gets under the skin of politicians, business folk, slebs and all the hangers-on: this has in the past endangered its survival.

Indeed, at the time I first read the Eye regularly – the staff at the newsagents near my (then) work let me pay for it using Luncheon Vouchers – it was being pursued by the deeply unpleasant James Goldsmith in an action which, had it carried on, would have seen it close, with the possibility of then editor Richard Ingrams going to Jail.

Fortunately, Goldsmith’s vanity defeated him: he wanted to become a Press Baron (tm) and it was made clear to him that closing down the Eye would not help any attempt to buy out a national newspaper. In the event, he failed to get hold of a national daily, instead founding the weekly news magazine Now!

To the delight of the Eye and its supporters, Goldsmith’s mag soon sank without trace, and he had to make do with the consolation prize of a knighthood from Wislon. But it was a damned close-run thing.

I never did warm to Goldsmith, not even when he helped see off “Shagger” Mellor in 1997. But I still value my subscription to Private Eye. Hopefully others feel, and more still will come to feel, the same way.

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