Yesterday, at long, long last, and after almost nineteen years, two men were convicted of the racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence. And it was only because they were under 18 at the time that Gary Dobson and David Norris went down for a minimum of 15 years and 14 years 3 months respectively. The Met has not ruled out further arrests.
First out of the traps to claim credit has been Paul Dacre, the legendarily foul mouthed editor of the Daily Mail, whose paper named five suspects in a front page splash in early 1997. The Vagina Monologue has even appeared on video – a rarity for him – in a clearly rehearsed orgy of self justification, as he railed against criminality, and especially against racism.
This last has been decidedly shaky ground for the Mail, and to see why, one need look no further than Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News, where he tells “One of those directly involved says that the Mail’s approach to the story began by being hostile. They sent their only black news reporter, Hal Austin, to interview the dead boy’s father, Neville Lawrence, with instructions to run a story attacking the groups who were campaigning for a new inquiry into the murder”.
The Eye's take on it
The Mail only changed tack after Neville Lawrence, realising that the paper’s editor was the same bloke he had done some plastering for years earlier, phoned Dacre, who then decided to “do something sympathetic”. This did not fit in with many of his hacks’ attitudes to ethnic minorities, as Davies discovered during his research.
He found a district reporter who would be asked when phoning in a story if the subjects were “of the dusky hue”. Davies tells that the person keenest on this euphemism was a senior news executive. A young man who worked at the Mail for a year said “he had been amazed at the openness of the racism in the office”, although the culprits were “not Dacre, but some of the other older ones”.
And anyone believing that the Mail has somehow turned over a new leaf since Davies did his research four years ago would find that belief misplaced: as recently as August, Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips was raging at “the disaster of multiculturalism”. The following month, Mel was railing against “the Orwellian cause of promoting ‘diversity’”.
The Million Pound hack Richard Littlejohn has wittered endlessly about “diversity”, and is still employed by the Mail despite ranting about there being too many brown faces in a Question Time audience. And only this week, Dick railed against a Bangladeshi man being granted leave to stay in the UK, which he wouldn’t have worried about if (for instance) he had been white and Zimbabwean.
No, the Mail isn’t out of the racism woods yet. Paul Dacre take note.