MPs petition Desmond over Express job losses

Two MPs have written to Express Newspapers to convey their disquiet – in one case horror – at the 145 redundancies boss Richard Desmond is determined to make at the titles.

Former broadcaster Austin Mitchell and Scottish MP Michael Russell are hoping to change Desmond’s mind.  Russell, the Shadow Minister for Children and Education in the Scottish Parliament, protesting at the loss of staff at the Scottish Daily Express, has written to say he is to put a motion before the Parliament about the redundancies.

While he has not always agreed with the Express in the past, he said, no one could fail to recognise its distinguished history and what Scotland needed was a broad band of independent newspapers, not a reduction in titles.

Mitchell, who expressed horror at the number of redundancies, has asked Desmond and his board to reconsider because "it would be unforgivable to damage, possibly ruin, a newspaper with such a long-standing reputation".

He told him: "It comes back to the good journalistic maxim that it’s impossible to produce a good newspaper without good journalists and while I can see the financial pressures on the Express, I can also see that many of those who are being got rid of are good journalists of some standing, whose contribution is vital to any successful newspaper."

Mitchell added: "Good newspapers thrive on good journalism, which has to be properly financed, on good campaigning, which again costs, and on maintaining standards, which can hardly be done if so many qualified journalists are being got rid of in this fashion."

Desmond has been in Los Angeles for the past fortnight on business so would not have received the letter, dated 10 April. Editorial director Paul Ashford has also been off and new executive director Jason Fraser has been in charge.

A spokesman for Desmond said he was working towards a strategy and he did not think a letter from an MP would divert him from that.

The company has opened talks with the unions on behalf of the many people who have said they want to take redundancy. But Lindsay Cook, managing editor, said: "Some people who have asked to go on the list have changed their minds after it was pointed out by Chris Williams [Express editor] and myself they have a future here."

Promotions are thought to be in the offing.

By Jean Morgan

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