Fleet Street’s best paid, longest serving and most successful editor Paul Dacre almost never gives interviews.
But the New Statesman this week offers a rare glimpse into his world with a profile penned by Peter Wilby for its Christmas issue (on sale now).
He notes that at 9pm each night the atmosphere changes at Derry Street as Dacre emerges on to the editorial floor and “denounces” pages – and those responsible.
“He never thinks of logistics and he has no idea of what’s an unreasonable request”, one former sub tells Wilby. “Don’t resist me darling”, is apparently a Dacre catchphrase.
According to Wilby, Dacre – who has just turned 65 – is no longer the “expletive volcano he once was; his barbs these days tend to concern the brainpower of his target and their supposed laziness.”
Dacre has been editor of the Daily Mail since 1992 and was last year paid £1.8m in his role as editor-in-chief of the Mail titles plus Metro.
“He’s the most consummate newspaper man I’ve ever met”, former Mail features editor Charlie Burgess tells Wilby.
“It’s a daily performance of genius”, says former Mail political columnist Peter Oborne about the way Dacre “articulates the dreams, fears and hopes of socially insecure members of the suburban middle class”.
Wilby notes that to its critics “the Mail is none too fussy with the facts” – it has 687 complaints against it in the files of the PCC which led to an adjudication or a negotiated settlement. The next biggest transgressor is The Sun on 394 – Wilby reports.
Ironically, Dacre is chair of the committee which writes the Editors' Code on behalf of publishers' body Pressbof.
The Daily Mail is also the most frequent Fleet Street visitor to the Royal Courts of Justice – as a Press Gazette website search for the words 'Daily Mail' and 'libel' illustrates.
Wilby writes: “More than most editors it can be said of him that he’s in nobody’s pocket, not even his proprietor’s.”
The big question is what will happen when Dacre finally steps down. His latest contract is for one more year after his 65th birthday last month.
One former Mail columnist tells Wilby: “If Dacre goes it will be the end of the Daily Mail…I know the left will be cheering when he goes out but believe me, the rich and famous will cheer more.”