Morgan’s pub pal Hunter, left, is having an affair with Boulton, centre
Daily Mirror reporters have been granted official permission not to "turn over" their regular drinking partners and neighbours after editor Piers Morgan backed off the Anji Hunter/Adam Boulton affair story because he drinks in the same village pub as Hunter.
Sunday newspapers made a meal of the Sky political editor leaving home after telling his wife of the affair with the Prime Minister’s former aide – but Morgan could have published it on Saturday.
Contacted by Press Gazette, Morgan was typically unrepentant. "She lives in my village and drinks in my pub," he said, admitting that was the predominant reason why he hadn’t used the story.
"And it was also because I did a straw poll on a few other people who are not journalists and none of them had ever heard of either of them.
I thought that on the scale of bombshell revelations, someone few people have ever heard of going out with someone even fewer people have heard of is not a massive story – certainly not worth upsetting my Friday nights at the pub.
"My message to public figures is, ‘If you want to get an easy ride, go and live in Newick’. Anji and I have lived there for 25 years. We drink in the Crown pub in Newick together.
"There are some things that go beyond the pale – turning over a pub regular is one of them." Every single editor protected his mates quite regularly, he claimed, adding: "I’m the only one who admits it."
When Morgan was contacted about his astonishing decision, he put out this memo to staff in the form of an apology to the reporter, James Scott, who wrote the story: "Following my clarion call last week for more exclusive scoops, the above named journalist promptly came up with a rather good one involving Tony Blair’s ex-aide and a certain Sky News political commentator. Unfortunately he didn’t realise that Anji Hunter lives in my village, has known me since I was 3ft 6in high – and drinks in my local pub.
"She is therefore, tragically, protected from a Daily Mirror expose of all aspects of her life bar, possibly, having an affair with Osama bin Laden."
Scott, he said, was in the Seychelles on a trip "to recover from this indefensible ‘look after your mates’ censorship by his editor". In a postscript, he said: "All reporters are hereby granted official permission not to turn over regular drinking partners or neighbours. Unless they want to."
The Sun also had the story, he told Press Gazette, and didn’t use it. Sun editor David Yelland said: "My readers care a lot more about Big Brother than they do about Anji."
The affair, begun two years ago, is believed to have been known about in newspaper circles for some time.
By Jean Morgan