The Daily Star did not pay for the serialisation rights to Garry Bushell’s book which led to the outspoken Sun TV critic being suspended on Monday.
He is accused by The Sun of gross misconduct after the Star front page prefaced its extracts from his book Face by saying it was "the raunchy book The Sun didn’t dare to publish".
But while a Sun inquiry looks at how its columnist came to feature so heavily in a rival, the background seems to be disgruntlement by Bushell and his publisher, John Blake, that his paper did not support the novel, and Blake’s friendship with the Star’s deputy editor.
Sources close to Bushell and Blake say the publisher had written to Sun editor David Yelland about serial rights but received no reply. At the book’s launch, Yelland again refused to discuss running it with Blake. In contrast, The Sun has serialised Richard Littlejohn’s new book. Frustrated, Blake turned to old friend Hugh Whittow at the Star. The pair previously worked together at the Evening News and Whittow was said to have jumped at the chance to serialise Face over six days in the Star.
Blake decided not to sell the book, in case it compromised Bushell. "I classed it as a very large review – the best I’ve ever had," he said. "Mea culpa! I take full responsibility. It was nothing to do with Garry. The blame stops with me. The Sun gave the book no support whatsoever and Hugh said, ‘it’s a great book. We should serialise it.’"
The result, when the Star appeared on Monday, was an incandescent Yelland. According to Sun insiders, he regards Bushell’s actions as gross disloyalty. He was said to have put behind him Bushell’s reported remarks about the Sun being "Sleepy Hollow" under his editorship. But the latest in-your-face Star front-page blurb, with a picture of Bushell and using the Sun’s logo, was too much – the paper is taking legal action against the Star over the logo. Bushell was called in at 11am and later escorted from the building.
Neither Yelland nor Bushell will comment but the latter’s friends say he finds it impossible to understand why The Sun suspended him. Despite an offer in January to work for Richard Desmond at Express Newspapers, he stayed, partly because The Sun had promised to promote Face. While he did not expect it to serialise such a graphic book, he did expect a plug.
Bushell feels Yelland broke his word and is not happy. Nor does he want to leave The Sun under a cloud, after 16 years as one of its stars.
By Jean Morgan