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31 October 2018updated 08 Sep 2021 3:53pm

Alison Phillips’s Diary: Universal credit, thawing out in Primark and the sickness in the soul of Philip Green

Green is used to unexpected visits from Mirror reporters. 

By Alison Phillips

The third reading of the bill to change the law on organ donation passes successfully through the House of Commons, meaning the Mirror’s Change the Law for Life campaign is a step closer to victory. For three years the Mirror has been fighting for a new law whereby we will all be deemed to have given consent to donating our organs unless we opt out of the system. It is believed that this change – which hopefully will now become law in the new year – will mean thousands more organs becoming available each year, saving hundreds of lives.

Our campaign has been fronted by Max Johnson, who was nine years old, seriously ill and desperate for a heart transplant when we first told his story. Now he has undergone transplant surgery, is back at school and making incredible progress. Each time I meet Max or see a picture of him I’m reminded of how important this campaign has been. And what a responsibility we have to use our influence for good.

Campaigning has always been part of the lifeblood of the Mirror. After the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 it was the Mirror, outraged at how many steerage passengers had drowned, that campaigned to ensure ships should never sail without enough lifeboat places for everyone on board. And it was the Mirror that helped to set up the World Wildlife Fund (now the World Wide Fund for Nature) after a shock edition in 1961 highlighted the number of animals at risk of extinction. And our iconic front-page photograph by Kent Gavin of a baby seal being clubbed to death in 1968 was what turned the tide on the fur trade in this country.

There are many, many more examples of our great, campaigning journalism. And before you ask, yes, the weight of history does lie heavy on us here today. But so does our responsibility to ensure the readers know exactly who’s carrying on with whom on Strictly this season.

Because, like a true friend, our role is to inform, support and entertain. And no one wants a friend who’s not entertaining.

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Crashing the megayacht

In our front-page splash on Saturday our brilliant US editor, Chris Bucktin, tracked down (Sir) Philip Green to an Arizona health farm. One can only hope the “wellness resort” treats moral as well as physical health because there appears to be a sickness in the soul of (Sir) Philip. He has spent half a million pounds trying to silence the Daily Telegraph’s investigation into a string of bullying, sexual and racial harassment claims against him (which he denies).

The whole issue is a timely reminder of how the rich and powerful will always use cash and clout (or claptrap about “fake news”) to silence those who would shine light in areas they prefer to be dingy.

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Green is used to unexpected visits from Mirror reporters. When BHS went bust shortly after he sold it for £1 to a business ignoramus, we sent one of his former workers and a journalist on a rowing boat up to his gazillion-pound yacht in the Med to confront him with a megaphone about his actions. It didn’t end well. The Mirror has long been a thorn in the rhino hide of Green and those of his ilk who stampede over the lives of our readers.

We’re proud of that. And of course, no thorns, no roses.

Freezing on the sidelines

I spend most of the weekend standing on the sidelines of assorted freezing cold football pitches watching my eight-year-old son play three games in what forecasters later reveal are the coldest October temperatures for a decade. I’m allowed the opportunity to thaw out by trailing around Primark after my 12-year-old daughter.

The Devil Wears Prada my life ain’t. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. And at a time when trust between people and their press feels more frayed and fraught than ever before, we at the Mirror need to live like our readers, shop like our readers, feel like our readers and fear like our readers.  Liberal we’re proud to be. Elite, never.

A modern George Orwell

We start the week on Monday with Chancellor Philip Hammond’s breaking Budget news that austerity is dead. Although I’m not sure his message got through in time to the young mum who called our news desk over the weekend sobbing that Universal Credit delays meant she had nothing in her purse, two kids to feed and three buses to the nearest food bank.

We are constantly inundated with stories about the unfairness and incompetence of Universal Credit. It’s what prompted us to launch a campaign calling for its roll-out in the current form to be axed. 

All around my desk are wooden crates filled with neatly filled-in petitions backing the call. Ros Wynne-Jones, in her weekly “Real Britain” column, has written endlessly about those hardest hit. And on her brilliant project retracing George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier, she told the stories of real hardship that we’re seeing all across the country today. I fear the rumours of austerity’s death are greatly exaggerated.

A tear in the eye of Ross Kemp

Monday evening is the highlight of the Mirror’s year, the Pride of Britain Awards. You can watch it on ITV on Tuesday evening (6 November) but you will need a king-size box of tissues to hand because there are some very weepy moments. I sat next to Ross Kemp and I do believe I spotted slight moisture emanating from even those East End eyes.

It’s an extraordinary night when you can have the last surviving Dambuster, the 96-year-old George “Johnny” Johnson, on stage alongside adorable Ella Chadwick, who has  spent most of her young life in hospital with a rare kidney disease. All that watched by an audience spanning the celebrity cosmos from Cliff Richard to Anthony Joshua. The evening reaffirms that however tough the challenges some of us have to face – the human spirit can still be stronger.

Alison Phillips is editor of the Daily Mirror