Piers Morgan, former editor of the main popular paper of the left, regards politics and life as showbiz. And the politicians let him get away with itby John Lloyd / June 19, 2005 / Leave a comment
The Insider by John Lloyd (Ebury Press, £17.99)
The diaries kept by Piers Morgan when he was editor of the Daily Mirror (1995-2004) comprise one of the most revealing narratives on the nature of power and the media in modern Britain. Morgan made his name, appropriately enough, as a showbusiness columnist on the Sun, and in 1994, at the age of just 28, became editor of the News of the World, before being offered the Mirror job a year later. While his book often reflects badly on contemporary politicians—overwhelmingly the leadership of the New Labour government—it is also devastating about the popular media.
Some of that is what you would expect: vast expenses paying for high-class eating and drinking bouts, including a party, thrown by Marco Pierre White, in which a bottle of Chateau d’Ychem 1911, priced at £11,000, is drunk “like lemonade”; enormous sums paid to celebrities for their confessions and gossip; relationships with the monarchy which reveal a mixture of fawning on, cheekiness towards and betrayal of the royal family, especially Diana, Princess of Wales—whom Morgan revered as the biggest source of circulation he had known.
He reproduces in the book a four-page transcript of a phone conversation with Diana, initiated by her, after he had phoned to check a story about a private visit she had made to the Priory clinic. What he calls “a great scoop” is a collection of banalities about her bulimia, her recovery from it and her desire to assist others suffering from it. Diana, on Morgan’s account, approved an extensively rewritten story through her aide Michael Gibbins, who had told the Mirror editor that the princess was “very grateful” for the changes Morgan had made at her behest. Diana then issued a statement on the day of publication saying she was “deeply disappointed” about the disclosure of her Priory visit and talk.
The reverence which Morgan feels for Diana is based on an acknowledgement of her power (the only other figure in the diaries given such treatment is Rupert Murdoch). Furious at her betrayal over the Priory story, he threatens Gibbins with printing the transcript of the conversation in which the two agreed the story. “Oh,” says Gibbins, “the princess doesn’t think you will do anything like that now you are getting on so well.” Morgan reflects: “I’m trapped on Planet Diana, a crazy place where she calls the shots and…