Returning for the New Year is the Leveson Inquiry, and today it has been regaled by Rupe’s current and former troops who have worked so hard to make the Super Soaraway Currant Bun the populist and trashy receptacle of throwaway tat that it is today. And events kicked off with the man that Private Eye memorably, and rightly, characterised as Kelvin McFilth.
At this point it should be pointed out, moreover, that MacKenzie, who confessed to a “bullish” demeanour during his time in the editor’s chair (what goes with “bull” I will leave to others to decide), did little to put one over on Leveson or the Inquiry’s counsel, being at times almost respectful of proceedings. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who has suggested he will take the Inquiry by storm, should take note.
But sadly, whatever his approach, Kel did not impress Leveson: at one point, after the former Sun editor asserted that the Guardian had got the Millie Dowler story “completely wrong”, Leveson replied that this analysis was “interesting”, which is diplomacy speak for “come off it Kel, you’re ‘evin a larf”. The MacKenzie allegation that the Guardian got away with what the Sun could not fell equally flat.
Spot the difference: Eye send-up ...
So what was the Sun like under the “bullish” MacKenzie? This is not an actual Sun front page, but an inside feature from issue 533 of Private Eye, though the tone of the paper at the time of the Falklands conflict was not so far removed. The strapline “Kill an Argie – and win a Metro” dogged MacKenzie for years afterwards, because it summed up the paper most succinctly.
After all, when the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano was torpedoed and sunk by a British submarine, the Sun ran the front cover displaying the word GOTCHA, which even Margaret Thatcher’s most ardent followers found a little tasteless and insensitive, given that over 300 men, just over half the total Argentine casualties in the conflict, died in the attack (the cover was later amended).
MacKenzie was also – solely – responsible for the infamous “The Truth” front page published in the wake of the Hillsborough stadium disaster of 1989 (that front page is not shown here, and will not be). This disgraceful smear did not stop him going on to edit the Sun for another five years, and being cited as Rupe’s all-time favourite Sun editor, which should tell you all you need to know about the Dirty Digger.
So when Kelvin MacKenzie presented himself before Leveson this morning and pontificated about newspaper editorship, it should be borne in mind exactly where he was coming from. And Rupe backed him all the way, even during and after Hillsborough. Even – despite the reported displeasure at the payout – over the Elton John libel. Even through countless character assassinations.
Kel and Rupe aren’t such jolly old fellows after all. But you knew that anyway.