Donning the mantle of Hugh Cudlipp
Pundits cried hallelujah for the born-again Piers Morgan. The Mirror editor’s Damascene renunciation of journalism that doesn’t much matter had them measuring him for the mantle of Hugh Cudlipp.
Heady stuff. Even The Sun might join the chorus. How happy it would be for Morgan to revive the misjudgement of the man who, having made the Mirror king of the jungle, let it be brought down by a less high-minded beast.
Fortunately for Cudlipp, his fame was already assured before Rupert Murdoch launched The Sun (under the Mirror’s cast-off slogan, Forward with The People).
Like the master, Morgan prefers not to slug it out with The Sun. Like the master, he proclaims it a comic unworthy of his attention. What a mistake to be made once, let alone twice.
Nor did Cudlipp permit his talented team to meet the challenge (which editor Lee Howard dared to identify before being fired). He declined to vary the tone set over the years when the masses could like the Mirror or make do with a broadsheet.
This worked so long as it had no tabloid rival but the Daily Sketch, which he could safely dismiss as "clean but not very clever".
True, Cudlipp’s Mirrorscope pullout was a brilliant advance in popular journalism. But it did less to get sales to five million than being first to latch on to the Beatles.
Form birth, The Sun’s mission was to be what the Mirror used to be. Strident, working-class, a thorn in the side of the Establishment. But that’s not all, folks. It had to be fun.
Of course, hard news was vital. But its silly season would need to run January to December. So would the Mirror’s, if it wanted to compete.
Would Morgan be bringing back Cudlipp’s Mirroscope? He was certainly quick to bring back Cudlipp’s agonised protg John Pilger, reporter of (and stirrer of) much conflict.
As The Sun began the week majoring on Harry Potter, The Mirror splashed Pilger. "THIS WAR IS A FRAUD" was vintage vinegar. America, bad. America’s enemies, good. Our Boys, mercenaries for Yankee capitalism.
Morgan was out to echo the shock wave of Cudlipp’s stop-the-Suez-war campaign. Then, as now, Our Boys were putting their lives on the line. Then, the Mirror lost thousands of readers. How would today’s Britain react?
Sure, after 11 September, the world would never be the same again. Did that go for the twin tabloid towers too?