The premise behind Peter Sellers’ last Pink Panther film – that an ageing Mafia boss orders a hit to demonstrate that he is “still strong” – will be familiar to those observing events at Northcliffe House, where the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has dispatched his henchman Stephen “Miserable Git” Glover over the top in an attempt to kick away the credibility of Guardian man Nick Davies.
What the f***'s wrong with kicking the f***ing Guardian, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay
Why the Vagina Monologue should have waited so long before going after the man who brought us Flat Earth News, the go-to book on the machinations of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet, and which contains a singularly revealing chapter on the Daily Mail and its editor, may not at first be clear. It is because Davies’ profile is about to go far, far higher.
The latest book from the man who brought Phonehackgate to a wider audience, Hack Attack, examines the Murdoch empire, its rotten tabloid underbelly, and its come-uppance at the Hacking Trial. This, in itself, was not sufficient to cause the boiling magma of Dacre’s volcanic hatred to blow, but when George Clooney decided to make a movie based on the book, the eruption was immediate.
Much of Glover’s screed is down to his usual tedious standard: first he praises Davies, then slowly but surely builds a mountain of misinformation, which includes disputing Flat Earth News’ claims about the Daily Mail’s inherent racism, claiming that Davies’ sources were “unnamed” and therefore by implication unreliable. But he misses the obvious corollary.
Were Davies to be spreading falsehood about the Mail, it would have been easy for the paper, with its resources, to take him to the cleaners. No such action was taken, and for the good reason that Davies could stand up those allegations. Glover’s case then effectively shoots itself in the foot when he makes his clincher the Milly Dowler hacking and the subsequent closure of the Screws.
First, he suggests that the voicemail deletion angle was key to this story, but it was not: it was not covered until the seventh paragraph of the original article. From that he riffs “If Davies had got the original story right, the NoW might still be published”. But an email from the month before that story appeared says otherwise.
Simon Greenberg, then News International’s director of corporate affairs, said to Rebekah Brooks regarding the Screws “This is why we should consider the shutdown option ... Is the brand too toxic for itself or the company? I believe it is. Unparalleled moments need unparalleled action. You could be the person to save the Rubicon deal”. The Rubicon deal was the bid for all of BSkyB.
Glover’s article is undone by the mystical art known as “five minutes’ Googling”. Dacre’s attack on Davies is built on sand. He fails to show that he is “still strong”.