Friday, July 13, 2007

So farewell, then, to the "greatest Living Englishman"

Nigel Dempster, who has died, awarded himself the sobriquet "Greatest Living Englishman" and was awarded the nickname "Dumpster" by Private Eye.

Love him or loathe him, he was a remarkably successful journalist.

I am now going to make a sordid confession. From the age of three (or whenever I could read) until 30, I read the Daily Mail on a daily basis. My family had it each day (along with the Telegraph), as did my grandfather for donkey's years. I remember when it went tabloid. I read it in the common room at school. Then I had it delivered to us when we got married. I finally gave it up when I realised, after reading yet another "Labour was last night reeling" story, that I was being slowly poisoned. I wrote to the Lord Harmsworth (the older one, now dead) saying his paper was too right wing, so I was giving it up. He wrote back saying his paper had always been patriotic and used to have "King and Country" on its masthead. I wrote back saying he had missed the point and confused patriotism with right-wingery, pointing out that a large chunk of the people who died for this country in two world wars came from Glasgow, not known as a hot bed of Conservatism. I got no reply. I probably confused him.

Anyway I digress. I read the Dempster Diary, or at least skimmed past it, for many years. It is remarkable how he managed to attain and maintain such a high profile and popular page in such a high circulation paper as the Daily Mail.

Having said that, we used to laugh at some of his stories. "I can reveal" was his favourite phrase. And the revelation was often about the tea-making habits of the assistant flower arranger of the Dowager Marchioness of Deswbury-Minor.

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