I booked a cab the other day, and saw The Daily Mail lying on the seat next to the driver. ‘Sorry,’ I said ‘you can have me in the cab, or you can have the Mail, but you can’t have both.’
It was not the first time I had given this ultimatum to unsuspecting drivers. One or two choose to keep the Mail, so I walk or get the tube, which I should have done in the first place. Others are happy to go along with my eccentricity. So in this instance I was able to take his paper and put it into the nearest Camden Council recycling box in a neighbour’s front garden, and then explain to the cabbie why he and his life would be happier, healthier and all round better if he gave it up.
I apologise to the neighbour of course. I would normally put refuse in my own bins, but I have a golden rule – the Mail is not allowed in the house. That goes for Mail journalists, and the paper itself. My children are also aware that should any of their friends be of the newspaper-reading variety, one such newspaper is a banned substance.
When I published The Blair Years, one of the funnier emails my agent received was from the Mail asking if I would consider serialising the book with them. As it happens, I didn’t serialise with anyone, but I would rather die in a vat of boiling oil than take a penny from Obergruppenfuhrer Paul Dacre, the Mail’s presiding evil not-so-genius, who in his spare time heads up the Code Committee of the ludicrous Press Complaints Commission.
I see that Suzanne Moore, the ‘left-wing’ journalist who resigned a position she did not apparently hold in protest at my guest-editing the New Statesman, nonetheless finds her principles are capable of accomodating the taking of the Dacre shilling. Perhaps that’s because he has more of them than the Statesman does. Shillings that is, not principles.
I have also been shocked at some of the people who have indeed done serialisation deals with the Mail. Tony Benn, for example, is one of many on the left who, when push comes to shove, are pushed into deals with the Mail. Tut, tut, though he has other redeeming features.
Hating the Mail can be particularly enjoyable at airports. Most of the people I see reading the paper there do so because it is being handed out free as a way of keeping up the figures which are used to justify the exorbitant ad rates. British Airways, I regret to say, are involved in this unpleasant habit, as are BMI. As I say to air stewards who offer me a copy of the Mail if I get on one of their planes, prior to taking it and tearing it in half and giving it back to them, I assume they won’t be serving dogshit with the dinner, so why force me to take the media equivalent?
Where other papers are being given out free, it is always worth offering them to fellow passengers, but insisting you relieve them of their Mail, which you can then tear in half and pop into the nearest bin. I don’t know if Little Chefs still give out free copies of the Mail. You see, I haven’t been in one since I saw them being offered at a Little Chef on the A1. The actual Little Chef – that odd big white building about a hundred miles from London – no longer exists. Shame the Mail didn’t go with it.
I should also point out to Tesco that one of the reasons Fiona would not consider them for online shopping is because we learned you can get a free copy of the Mail with your delivery. I know Tesco is a giant, and probably doesn’t worry too much about that, but I suspect we are not alone in rejecting companies which actively choose to associate themselves with the Mail.
Yesterday M and S asked for their ad to be moved when they discovered it was alongside Jan Moir’s offensive piece about Stephen Gately, which prompted an avalanche of complaint across the web. It will have been a tactical retreat, and given the demographics of the Mail readership, M and S is unlikely to want to give up the paper as a part of its advertising strategy.
But, in these moments when a paper comes under closer scrutiny than usual, not least via the internet, companies will make judgements that might change their behaviour. And pressure brought on advertisers can have an impact. I suggest that all of us, in our own way, bring that pressure to bear.
Meanwhile, thanks to the T-shirt manufacturer who sent me the ‘Hated by the Daily Mail’ top a few months ago. I shall pop it on with pride as I prepare to go out on my bike. To be hated by The Mail is to know that whatever other faults you may have, you’ve done something right.