6 MARCH 1964, Page 11

The Press

By RANDOLPH S. CHURCHILL Think of the amazement there would have been only a few years ago over the engage- ment of a princess and a commoner.

But, one after another, young women of different royal houses have escaped from the traditional bonds. So now there is no surprise left to greet the betrothal of Princess Margaretha of Sweden and Mr. John Ambler.

Only the natural pleasure at the thought of an attractive young woman accepting a man she loves.—Daily Express editorial, February 29.

1F there was `no amazement, no surprise . . . only the natural pleasure at the thought of an attractive young woman accepting a man she loves,' why all the furore on the front page of the Daily Express the same day? In a splash headline across seven columns the Daily Express devoted sixty-eight column inches, including two photographs, to this everyday affair—one of the photographs measuring five and a half inches by eight inches. What seemed to the leader-writer a humdrum affair looked salesworthy to the managing editor.

This is a very popular device with all the 'popular' newspapers. They first of all suggest that it is very snobbish to be over-impressed by royalty or to concede them any privileges

whatsoever; and then sell them for all their worth to the public.

Some years ago the Queen decided to give up the traditional 'drawing rooms' and later garden parties where debutantes used to be received. The popular press went wild with delight at this 'democratic' gesture. There was a new wind blow- ing through the fusty old palace, they said; but the debutantes had to be resurrected (though without their three feathers) in the interest of newspaper sales. Hardly a day passes but we are shown the photograph of some pretty young girl hailed as the 'debutante of the year.'

Another way in which some newspapers pander to the snobbery of their readers is by always dragging in, however obscurely, people who may have a relation with a 'handle to their name.' 'PEER'S NEPHEW FINED £5' is a very ,prevalent headline when some farmer in the West Country is run in for speeding.

Ephraim Hardcastle, in this week's Sunday Express, has an interesting story about Mr. William Bolitho, who came home from a holiday and found his house on fire. The only identi- fication accorded to Mr. Bolitho is that he is a nephew of the eighty-one-year-old Sir Edward Bolitho and 'a school friend of Prince Philip.'

He appears to have no existence on his own which would make him newsworthy. But he is a nephew of an aged knight. Good enough for a dullish Sunday.

Nearly all British newspapers from top to bottom pay lip-service to the idea that there should be no class distinction in this country. They even pretend, when it suits them, that there is no such thing. They claim that we live in a practically egalitarian society, or, as some with a limited knowledge of the language call it, a 'democratic' society.

Of course, nothing could more perpetuate class distinction than the British press from top to bottom. The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the three 'heavies' on Sundays, all make it plain that they are catering for educated people. The Times went so far as to spend many thousands of pounds asserting that they catered for lop people'—whoever they may be. It seemed at one time from Times advertising that it was those who could contrive to get their names into Who's Who. Then there are the papers like the Daily Mail and Daily Express who quite plainly cater for the middle classes, though undoubtedly they attract many readers from the 'higher income' groups for their enter- tainment value. Of this they boast—particularly the Daily Express. Finally, on the bottom rung of the ladder are those like the Daily Mirror and the Daily Sketch, who more or less • pro- ceed on the assumption that their readers have very low incomes and can hardly read or write. Hence the plethora of pictures and the virtual absence of letterpress.

The advertisers respect these distinctions. You will, for instance, seldom see an advertisement for a book in these cheaper papers. Nor do the proprietors and editors of the cheaper news- papers encourage their readers to raise their standards and to buy books; they very seldom review them. All this,, of course, tends to per- petuate a class society which may perhaps be inevitable; but do not let us be deceived by those who prate against a class society and who in fact coin money by being commercially as class-conscious as possible. It is impossible to stop this humbug, but let us detect it for what it is.

Congratulations to Charles Wintour of the Evening Standard for discovering another brilliant new Riviera correspondent, Mr. Colin Vine. At one time he had a correspondent there called Richard Strong, who wrote on politics. Last summer he had a correspondent who, under a different name, complained about the disposal of refuse in the neighbourhood of Cap d'Ail. On Monday, this brilliant new correspondent, Mr. Vine, admittedly on an away page, has fresh but more disagreeable news from the Cap d'Ail area. In a most detailed account he tells us that smoke, 'more likely to produce lung cancer than any amount of cigarettes,' belches forth towards Cap d'Ail during a dull day; that 'filth rolls out to sea'; that 'there is also a pipe discharging sewage from the hospital.' We are further ex- horted: 'If you'd like a holiday in Venice where smells are traditional, take a ticket to Monte Carlo or Cap d'Ail There are one or two important facts which Mr. Vine, who can't have been on the Riviera very long, doesn't tell us: that Lord Beaver- brook, proprietor of the Evening Standard, is a resident of Cap d'Ail, of which municipality he is an honorary citizen; that he has a passion for cleanliness; and that he left Cap d'Ail for England the day Mr. Vine's article appeared.