A letter from 'Sid'
Mr Auberon Waugh has been sent the following reply from Mr Derek Jameson, editor of the Daily Express, to his column in last week's Spectator: Dear Bron, Sorry, guy, to have caused offence. Dunno wot I must've bin finking abaht to let a hole week go by wivaht rePlyn' to a toff like Mister Auburn War. You put me in me plice an' no misstake . . .
Really, Bron, you must allow me to teach you Cockney idiom, if you could stand the pain. Your version in last week's Spectator of how I am supposed to speak Ms four oz Oim conncerned') was more Street than Street Porter. The local woodworm must have got at you.
Let us turn to the more serious suggestion that I personally had ignored your totally justified complaint that the Daily Express William Hickey column implied that you turned your back on a woman who wrote to you saying that she intended to kill herself.
Not guilty. Obviously you were not to know that I have been away from the Daily Express for several weeks looking after the launch of a new newspaper. The fact is that I was not responsible for the Express at the time that the Hickey piece appeared. The first I knew of your letter was when I read it in Spectator in Manchester last Friday. A two-minute telephone call could have ascertained whether I had received it before you leapt into print blackguarding me. When it comes to checking facts, you aren't any great improvement on William Hickey, are you?
Let that pass. The Hickey piece appalled me when I read it on October 23. You have every reason to be offended by such a distorted account of what happened in the case of this unfortunate woman. It should have been made absolutely clear, if indeed published at all, that you did not see her card until nine days after the day on which she intended killing herself. It was also absurd of Hickey to suggest that the lady was not a total stranger to you.
As editor in absentia of the Daily Express, I do apologise publicly for the pain that this Hickey report must have caused. Knowing you slightly, I am certain that you would help any person in distress were it in your power to do so. I am very sorry, both personally and professionally. Others are finding out just how this story came to be written.
That does not excuse the crude, offensive tone that you adopt towards me in an entire page of Spectator. Your villain has become victim. I was not present when someone had the temerity to write something hurtful about Mr Auberon Waugh. You have neatly turned the situation upside down with a series of spurious assumptions that question my integrity, my professional ability and my fitness to edit newspapers. For good measure you drag in my family and talk of searing romance and Jameson getting his leg over. Next week you hope to tell what happened to my first wife. I will tell you. She died of a brain haemorrhage ten years after our divorce.
Since I share your aversion to the laws of libel, perhaps you and the editor of Spectator will extend me the courtesy of space for this letter apologising to you and at the same time rebutting some of your more outrageous statements. Your address me as 'Dear Sid,' which is derived from Private Eye's 'Sid Yobbo' (alternating with 'Pearly King'). Presumably these particular insults rest on the fact that I am from the East End, grew up lo poverty and left school at fourteen, With all that going for him he's got to be a thick yob, right? You even touchingly suggest in your first sentence that you would not expect me to have much success trying to follow a Spectator article. Would you believe that there are people from the working class who can read and write? I was encouraged at school by teachers who felt there was a distinct possibility that I was cut out for something else than a lorry driver's mate. Their way out, and mine, happened to be literature. They didn't throw the book at me, but the whole bloody library. There was neither the time nor the resources for anything else; a war was going on.
At thirteen I won a national essay cornpetition, which inspired me a year later to seek a job in Fleet Street. Delivering mes" sages. Two years after that I became a trainee reporter and within ten years vvas senior executive directing world news vices at Reuters. Not Comic Cuts, Broil. Reuters. Ask the Spectator's editor about it His father, Sir Christopher Chancellor, roll the place. Arthur Christiansen recommended me to the Daily Express and, to cot a boring story short, ultimately I became deputy editor of the Daily Mirror before going back to edit the Express. In my first year there, the circulation went up by tell per cent — the first real increase for fourteell years and eight editors. And not a nipple in sight. You say that you first met me as arl 'amiable oaf' at the Sunday Mirror, but omitted to mention that I was alwaYs courteous and helpful to you. Worth SaYirig because it happened to be a rarity. Most colleagues kept their distance because theY felt your presence owned more to Waugh, Downside, Oxford and daddy's old reg; ment than to any journalistic ability. Since hate bigotry even more than I detest privilege, I treated you with respect. In anYd case, my aforementioned library happene to include Put Out More Flags and the rest' When you subsequently established a bril" liant literary reputation on your ovin account, I was more than vindicated in MY decision to treat you as a decent human being rather than something Hugh CudliPP had deposited on the mat. To end at the beginning, sorry that re. Cockney accent offends your ear. I'm 11°' too crazy either about your piping, ettlas culated upper-class squeak. Perhaps YOU should have tried Lancing.
Derek Jameson Editor-in-Chief, Daily Star, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester