Boris Johnson has come in for a fusillade of vituperative attacks from one of the UK's most influential journalistic figures – Roy Greenslade. Greenslade has a formidable pedigree: media guru; emeritus professor of journalism at City University, London; former managing editor (news) of the Sunday Times
; a former editor of the Daily Mirror
, whom has also worked in his time for The Sun
, the Daily Express
, the Daily Star
and London's Evening Standard
, and who, for many years, has written most incisively for The Guardian
on media matters.
Greenslade, writing currently in The Guardian
, and maintaining a journalistic thread throughout, explains: 'Boris Johnson is the first British Prime Minister with genuine journalistic experience, having been a reporter, columnist and editor. He knows from the inside what the press can achieve. From early in his career, he learned the dark arts. There was the infamous fabrication of a quote in 1988 that resulted in his being sacked by The Times
. Then, as the Daily Telegraph's
Brussels correspondent for five years from 1989, he learned how to spin, making a significant contribution to the creation of Euromyths'.
Greenslade, who is married to former Daily Mirror
journalist, Noreen Taylor, points out: 'More important still, he realised that his cavalier coverage of the European Commission had a political consequence. It provided Eurosceptic Tory MPs with ammunition to pursue their war against the EU'. This, says Greenslade, was especially attractive for Johnson because he had found both a political purpose and a journalistic niche. At the same time, as his public profile grew, he grasped the value of presenting himself as a bumbling comic. It concealed the seriousness of his political agenda. He goes on: 'His buffoonish image was reinforced in the writing style of his columns in the Daily Telegraph
. Beneath the florid language, with its artful mixture of self-deprecation, flights of fancy and allusions to the classics, was a right-wing propagandist hiding in plain sight.
'He unashamedly played to the gallery. You want xenophobia, I'll give it to you in buckets. You want a dose of racism, let me tell you about "piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles". You want some regional prejudice, how about Liverpool's "victim status". Sexism, tick. Homophobia, tick. Immigration smears, tick, tick, tick.'
Greenslade claims that in the following years, through his editorship of the Spectator
, his election as an MP and subsequent period as Mayor of London, Johnson's greatest frustration was the loss of his regular newspaper spot: 'The journalist was pining for his platform. Once it was restored by the Telegraph
his work received unprecedented promotion. He had effortlessly achieved a form of journalistic stardom running in parallel with political stardom. His one-time boss at the Telegraph
, Max Hastings, recognised the peril of handing power to "a brilliant entertainer", predicting in June last year that a Johnson premiership "will almost certainly reveal a contempt for rules, precedent, order and stability". So it has come to pass, notably in the way Johnson has treated the media.
'Aware of the tricks of his old trade, he is doing everything he can to avoid being subject to their wiles. Don't do as I once did, do as I now say. As the ultimate purveyor of fake news, he was not about to open the door to truth. To that end, he refused to be interviewed by the BBC's Andrew Neil during the December General Election campaign. That proved to be something of a dry run for what has happened since. He is sealing himself, and his Government, off from journalistic scrutiny. So his ministers are not only banned from appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today
programme but also the softish ITV show, Good Morning Britain
. As for Channel 4 News
, no chance. Special advisers are also banned from talking to journalists... centralised control of "the message" is essential, as is the control of images.
'Photographers are being excluded from Downing Street events. Johnson prefers key moments, such as the signing of the EU withdrawal agreement, to be pictured by his personal snapper, Andrew Parsons, It is part of a clear media strategy that manifested itself in the extraordinary treatment of the lobby when reporters from a range of publications – including the Daily Mirror,
, the i
newspaper and HuffPost
– were told they could not attend a Downing Street briefing. Hats off to those lobby members who were not excluded for siding with their colleagues and boycotting the meeting. But, given their dependence on those mystical anonymous sources, can they afford to stand firm in future?
'Johnson knows exactly what he is about. He is contemptuous of press freedom because he has spent so long making a mockery of it through his distortions of the truth. In that sense, he imagines that all other journalists are no different from him. Give them a chance and they'll do unto him what he has done to others. He has a particular loathing for broadcast journalists because they can hold him to account in public, hence the snub to Neil.'
Greenslade recalls a television interview of Johnson by Eddie Mair, when after the now PM had failed to answer some leading (and aggressive) questions, Mair had suddenly observed: 'You're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?' Observes Greenslade: 'At the time, I thought Mair had overstated his case. Now… I salute Mair for his insight. We are witnessing the most troubling assault on press freedom by a modern prime minister. Nasty, indeed'.
And, examining the current financial crisis at the Daily
and Sunday Telegraphs
, Greenslade attributes their woes directly to the owners – the Barclay brothers – including pursuing a dogmatic Eurosceptic agenda '... that culminated in acting as propagandist for the paper's former columnist, Boris Johnson, who had cynically adopted the anti-EU cause in order to satisfy his lust for power. What irony! The Telegraph's
slavish support for a comic journalist has helped turn the newspaper into a joke'.
Lorna Hughes is the new editor of Scotland's Sunday Mail
after Brendan McGinty left the role amid seven reported redundancies at the Reach plc tabloid and its sister title, the Daily Record
. Hughes, who was appointed an assistant editor of the Sunday Mail
back in 2014, is its first female editor in its 101-year history. She marked her new role this week with a front-page splash on the news that Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, are to marry, with her expecting a baby, and a controversial massive caps heading: 'ANOTHER DUMMY IN NO. 10'.
McGinty was appointed editor of the Sunday Mail
in 2016 at the same time as the editorial teams of the two tabloids merged to create a seven-day operation. He had worked on the Sunday Mail
since joining as a reporter in 2001, spending eight years as news editor and four as deputy editor.
The tabloid titles are currently the top-selling newspapers in Scotland. ABC reports that the Sunday Mail
had a circulation of 105,451 in January while the Daily Record
sold 104,343 copies. Jon Hebditch, who had been covering the City Council beat for the Press and Journal
) in Aberdeen, joined the Daily Record's
reporting team in Glasgow this week.
Falkirk-born Kevin Schofield, editor of the PoliticsHome website, is this summer to become director of communications and digital at the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC). This is a new standards body aiming to build public trust in the gambling industry. Schofield told Scottish Review that the BGC has 'big ambitions for the years ahead and I'm looking forward to working with the team to help drive up standards in the industry'.
Schofield, 45, who is a former graduate of Napier University in Edinburgh, joined PoliticsHome in 2015 after a five-year stint as chief political correspondent of The Sun
. His first job in journalism was at the Berwickshire News
in 1994, moving to the Falkirk Herald
before joining the Newsflash press agency in Stirling, and then, in 2001, joining the Press Association covering the Scottish Parliament. Three years later, he moved to The Scotsman
as education correspondent before joining The Herald
in 2007 as its Scottish political correspondent. From Glasgow, it was on to Westminster with the Daily Record
, then to The Sun
, and, finally, PoliticsHome, as its editor in 2015. He is a familiar face on television current affairs programmes as a guest commentator on political and media matters.
BGC chief executive, Michael Dugher told Scottish Review: 'The BGC is a new standards body committed to delivering big changes across the industry. To do that, we need top people. Kevin Schofield is one of the very best media professionals of his generation. He commands massive respect across journalism and politics, and he is an outstanding hire for the BGC'.
The editor of Europe's oldest student newspaper has warned the title is becoming a 'sinking ship' because it is no longer being read in university buildings. Manvir Dobb, outgoing editor-in-chief of Edinburgh University's newspaper, The Student
, has hit out in a strongly-worded front-page editorial headlined 'Everything is f*cked'. The Student
was founded in 1887 by Robert Louis Stevenson, and prominent names to have written for it include Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, and ITV news anchor, Tom Bradby. The title's management recently vetoed a call for it to become an online-only publication.