Watching brief - Amanda Platell sees the Telegraph spike IDS
By refusing to publish Iain Duncan Smith's final call to arms, the Telegraph's new editor w
Headline on the Daily Telegraph above a picture of Iain Duncan Smith and his loyal team on the day he faced the vote of confidence from his party: "In one year, I had the record for sustaining 42 agonising strokes of the cane." The 43rd stoke came with the refusal of the normally loyal Telegraph to run IDS's call to arms, a personal plea written especially for the paper. It would have been a shoo-in under the former editor, Charles Moore. As it happens, the caning story related to a Sting serialisation, but IDS was soundly beaten, none the less.
The new editor, Martin Newland, rejected IDS's piece. The message to the faithful was: we are the "Torygraph" no more. One has to question whether it was the right decision from a purely news perspective, as IDS's last stand ran heavily in all the morning's broadcast media including, crucially, the Today programme, still the agenda-setter for the broadsheet market. And it was a piece of history in the making.
So all credit to the Times, which snapped up the piece and ran it under the headline: "Back me: I'm ready to face my leadership's shortcomings." Irritatingly for IDS, it was positioned next to an excoriating piece by Simon Jenkins. "IDS was always a disastrous choice," wrote Jenkins. "If he were to survive today it would be another signal of the Tories' unfitness for power." In addition, it was opposite an editorial calling for him to fall on his sword, or anyone's sword, for that matter. The editorial was ruthless: "better the end of a thing [IDS] than the beginning".
This was the beginning of a new era not just for the Tory party, but also for the Telegraph, where Newland showed little patience with his leader-writers. In one meeting, where the old fogey rightwingers Daniel Johnson and Dean Godson were arguing the fate of IDS, he cut them short, saying: "I've heard enough from you two." He then, to everyone's amazement, refused the IDS piece. A lot of the old guard are on tenterhooks now, waiting to see which way their new boss jumps - and hoping it is not on them.
One of his first acts was to abolish the parliamentary page and to sack the paper's delightful parliamentary reporter, Michael Kallenbach. Editors waste journalists with Kallenbach's rich political knowledge at their peril.
John Humphrys once told me that he was rubbish as presenter of the Today programme for at least a year into the job. I doubt he could ever have been rubbish at anything, but there you go.
It is with this in mind that I address Sarah Montague's almost awful interview with the Chancellor, his first since returning from paternity leave. She sounded nervous, hummed and hahed so much that I became nervous just listening to her. This does not make good radio. Sarah is a fine broadcaster in the making, but should not be pushed so far so fast. It only damages her, her confidence and our faith in her abilities.
I would not have mentioned this if the Brown incident had not come so hard on the heels of her Paul Burrell interview. Faced with this greedy little opportunist trying to argue that he wrote the book to protect Diana's memory, even the most inexperienced journalist would have asked: "So how does writing about her nine lovers help that memory, Mr Burrell?" Maybe sleeping with a football team is normal practice in Burrell's circles, but revealing secrets of this nature about Diana is not what most of us call a loving act.
Only months after BBC Radio 5 Live's Fi Glover fled to America, rumours fly that she is planning her return to take over Eddie Mair's Broadcasting House on Radio 4. It would be a great coup for Radio 4, as she is one of the most talented and accomplished broadcasters to have emerged in this country in recent years.
Fi made her name on Radio 5 Live's Sunday Service, which is similar in format to Broadcasting House, so she should do the job brilliantly. It will be great to have her back.
A week is indeed a long time in Tory politics. IDS was booked to appear on the GMTV sofa on Tuesday morning to promote his novel. He was dumped at the last moment for the "candidate" Michael Howard, who was promoting his own narrative for the future of the party.
IDS's only consolation can be that Howard did not pass the GMTV sofa test. Too cold and too confident was the verdict. You have to be able to do "warm" to work on morning TV and even his most devout supporters would not claim this of Howard. Rumours that a blood transfusion was standing by, I understand, are purely malicious.
Correction. The MediaGuardian website repeated the old story that, when I departed Conservative Central Office, I left in such a hurry I forgot my curling tongs. Only the Tories would mistake straighteners for curling tongs. Where have they been for the past two decades?