So Paul Dacre admitted to using private investigators, and appeared to believe that getting hold of Friends and Family numbers was legal. Now he had to justify his paper’s attack on Hugh Grant, who was accused of “mendacious smears”. This was because Grant in turn had accused the Mail of phone hacking, which clearly touched a very raw nerve with the Vagina Monologue.
There was no phone hacking. That was the repeated and deadly serious point that Dacre wanted everyone to hear. Moreover, the BBC used private investigators, which somehow justified his paper doing it. And he wanted the Inquiry to know that he “moved decisively and ruthlessly to stamp it out”. Oh, and many of the hacks involved had now emigrated.
There was occasional recourse by The Great Man to reading passages from his own paper verbatim and with great reverence, in the manner of giving a Bible reading, and the thought occurred that this is how he sees the Mail: what is published in its pages he believes to be immutable truth, and takes great exception to anyone asserting otherwise. Like the Jan Moir Gately article.
On this, he attempted to bat away criticism: “The timing was regrettable ... could have done with some judicious sub-editing ... not a homophobic bone in Jan Moir’s body ... she used to work for the Guardian”. Aye, and so did Mad Mel, and I wouldn’t trust anything she spews out, either. Moir’s knocking copy referred to an apartment in Mallorca as a “rented cottage”. Finbarr Saunders was unavailable for comment.
Then we got the Christopher Jefferies case (“other papers were as bad”), Madeleine McCann (got the country wrong there), and then came Stephen Lawrence. Dacre was almost incandescent as it was put to him that the Mail was only sympathetic because Neville Lawrence did some plastering for Dacre some years earlier. But that was how the hostile storyline got changed, so he has no grounds for complaint.
More than once, Dacre replied “You don’t understand how a newspaper works”, which is as maybe, but we all know what comes out of what Nick Davies called The News Factory. He was big on the reputation of his newspaper, and complained that the Inquiry was “painting a bleak picture” of the industry. But he did not convincingly rebut the “night toilet visit gives you cancer” frightener.
And his assertion that his papers did lots of good medical coverage does not sit well with the “MMR means autism” scare, where the Mail (and, sad to say, the Eye) carried on well after it was clear that it didn’t. He complained of the costs of legal actions, without conceding the obvious point that it was the attack hackery that set them going. And his conclusion – “The British public are receiving a rather bleak and one sided view” – can be summarised thus: the readers might rumble us. Good.