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September 6, 2017

“I DON’T know why you bother with the NUJ – it’s full off blacks and lesbians,” were the words a long-standing regional newspaper editor who will remain nameless once said to me when I presented at his office as father of chapel for the National Union of Journalists to negotiate the annual pay round.
I thought of his words after reading a report of the conversation between new Evening Standard editor George Osborne and Andrew Marr at the London Press Club recently
Comments like that – I doubt that George would ever be reckless enough to speak his mind anything like so candidly, even in private (is anything ever private when you are Osborne?) – are now actionable but they were not entirely uncommon back in the dark and dangerous eighties in typewriter and cigarette smoke-filled offices peopled by macho larger-than-life rogues, rebels and renegades (but none quite as bad as politicians).
I think I prefer offensive outbursts from openly racist, homophobic bigots (at least you know where you stand with them. He asked me if I had served in the territorial army at the job interview and I always sensed deep disappointment when I told him I had not) than the carefully chosen, circumspect, slippery nonsense that emanates out of Osborne’s mouth.
I noted that Osborne was pressed on whether or not he has had to fire journalists not whether or not he has or still does fear being fired himself, a question many editors today are preoccupied with on a daily basis.
But then, of course, Osborne is no ordinary editor.
His tenure is secure for as long as he likes and he is, apparently, enjoying learning the ropes with no pressure from above and, significantly, he isn’t even a properly trained journalist and has many other jobs he can go to if this one collapses. Lucky old chap.
It is unlikely that he will have to negotiate an annual pay round with NUJ officials either (salaries are more likely to be negotiated individually and probably by other people in the chain of command so he doesn’t have to get his hands dirty) but you can be certain that he would not begin by saying anything about skin colour or sexual orientation in trades unions even if he did have views on such matters.

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