After he departed the editor’s chair at the Daily Mail, an apparently not entirely voluntary act, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre kept relatively quiet, no longer holding his daily editorial conferences where he would be surrounded by a phalanx of sickeningly grovelling Mail staffers all vying for his favour. No more ritual abuse and humiliation of staff. No more foul mouthed tirades in the newsroom. The roar was silenced.
Why the f*** shouldn't I c***ing well spend half my f***ing speech giving the c***s at the f***ing Guardian a proper double c***ing?
Well, until yesterday evening, that is, when the Vagina Monologue fetched up in Salford - a location his paper had gratuitously slagged off, and another place he knew nothing about - for a Society of Editors conference. Here, he would be gifted a lifetime achievement award. He would, at this time, make a speech. And anyone who has had to sit through a Dacre speech would have known what that meant.
The speech lasted for just over half an hour, a blessed relief for those who dreaded he might have to be dragged away from the microphone. And for almost half of that time he railed against … The Guardian. He was especially taxed by Alan Rusbridger having been the paper’s long-serving editor. This had displeased The Great Man mightily.
Small wonder that Press Gazette has told “Dacre [went] on to ‘stick his neck out’ as he took aim at the Guardian, Rusbridger, the BBC, Lord Leveson and the judiciary … Dacre, who stepped down as Daily Mail editor this summer after 26 years, dedicated several minutes of his more than half-hour long speech to delivering a riposte to Rusbridger’s recently published book Breaking News”. Zap! Pow! Dull!
The Guardian caught the Dacre dichotomy well. “Dacre said there was an ever-growing gap between London-based journalists and the views of the general public”, but then made sure readers knew “He saved particular anger for the Guardian, spending 15 minutes of the speech criticising the organisation and its views”. Tedious Maximus Redux.
Why the dichotomy? This extract from Paul Addison’s 2017 book Mail Men sums up why. “I’d watch him sitting behind this huge desk in conference … with all those courtiers trying to win points … Screeching away about ‘Alan Rubbisher’ and anything mildly liberal … They were utterly obsessed with the bloody Guardian … Dacre would grumble away himself under his breath about ‘Polly fucking Toynbee’”. Then came the killer observation.
“Everything Dacre learned about the world outside, it seemed to me, came from these courtiers. The more rabid loons in conference would just whisk Dacre up into a frenzy, and convince him there were hordes of Romanian refugees marching up High Street Ken - which Dacre could well believe, because he barely left his fucking office. The Stephen Lawrence story was one of those very rare exceptions where he actually met a member of the public - a plasterer working on his home!” Wallop. Ouch!
Thus the dichotomy: Dacre is right to say there is an ever-growing gap between London-based journalists and the views of the general public (and especially those outside London and the south-east), but he has even less idea about that than those he criticises. He never meets any of those Daily Mail readers with whom he talks of conversing.
Moreover, there was not as much as a twinge of regret at all those whom the Mail has, during the Dacre era, gratuitously and often deliberately defamed, no remorse at businesses trashed and livelihoods wrecked, no second thoughts of the little people sacrificed on the altar of revenue and circulation. Small wonder few outside the select gathering who had to suffer Dacre’s longeurs had any time for him.
Apart from Rusbridger highlighting Dacre’s creepy obsession with him, there was withering contempt of all those who have allowed the Vagina Monologue free rein over the years, with Brian Cathcart telling “And now they have made Dacre their Hero-for-Life, or whatever. The pandering devotion of the corporate press to this appalling, thuggish man tells you all you need to know about them”. Quite.
That was quite mild, given Dacre’s ranting at professors of journalism. More forthright was Nick Davies of phone hacking legend, who concluded “It's easy to laugh out loud at Paul Dacre's speech, but it is one more taste of the toxic cocktail with which he has been poisoning British life for years - gallons of falsehood, lashings of anger, all seasoned with self-love. Thank God he's gone”. Thus the reality of the now-ended Dacre era.
The problem, of course, is that the bad behaviour which Dacre worked so hard to normalise carries on. But good to see the SOB now on his way … out.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at