The futility of this price war

It may be that a tide of red printout persuades Trinity Mirror chairman Sir Victor Blank to have a quiet cuppa with News International chairman Leslie Hinton and the following dialogue ensues:

"Hell, Les, we’re all bleeding to death here."

"Hell, you started it. What did you suppose The Sun would do – roll over?"

"But we aren’t aiming at The Sun. We’ve quit the red-top game. Piers Morgan wants a better class of person to sample his new white-top. Like Mail readers."

"No way. They’d rather pay 40p for Lynda Lee-Potter and Simon Heffer than 20p for the 3am Girls and John Pilger. Wouldn’t you?"

"Les, we’re losing millions. We can’t go on like this."

"You can’t, Victor. We can. More tea?"

"Aaaarrrggh."

"You’ve convinced me. Let’s all back off. You square Richard Desmond, OK? Bung him the People or something."

Whatever, four national daily tabloids are in deep doodoo. To add some half a million temporary readers at a cut-throat 20p (or 10p for the Daily Star), up to seven million regular readers are being given their paper at the same cut-throat price.

And newsagents are still getting their one-third as though the old price were still being charged.

Suddenly, free Metro isn’t quite such a gift horse any more. This mad war has to end before it slaughters editorial budgets and editorial staffs. Journalists have no appetite for a mushroom-shaped cloud where the Mirror once stood (though one or two would relish a mushroom where Piers Morgan once stood).

David Yelland’s cries curdle the blood. He says the war goes on until the Mirror is destroyed. Yes, destroyed. Such language is altogether too weird for grown-ups to wallow in.

What serious editor could want the destruction (or self-destruction) of any combatant in the real battle: the battle for free and varied expression?

That poignant poem about the Battle of Blenheim has little Peterkin asking Old Kaspar to tell him all about the war, and what they fought each other for.

Old Kaspar is unable to answer what good came of it all, "but ’twas a famous victory".

Will we be as pathetic when tomorrow’s little Peterkins ask us what good came of the current Fleet Street unpleasantness?

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