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27 June 2020

Three Score Years and Ten (2)

Tag(s): History, Languages & Culture
The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Psalm 90:10 King James Version
In this blog I will cover the second half of the front page of the Daily Mirror for my three score years and ten, i.e. 1985 to 2019.

In 1985 the front page was divided between the announcement that the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would call for an investigation into the case of a lady who lost a baby because of breathing in fumes from a weed killer containing the chemical 245–T. The other half goes into the apparently equally important story that two Bond female actors had to wait for popstars to put on make-up at a press conference to publicise the latest 007 film.

In 1986 there is a huge headline about the suicide note of the Guinness heiress Olivia Channon written a few days before she died. In a much smaller feature there is the story that Ian McGregor, the head of the British coal mining industry during the famous strike, has got his reward from Mrs Thatcher of a knighthood.

In 1987 the headline screams with an exclusive umpiring ticket scandal but just as big a story is a massive picture of the new fashion craze of metal body sculpture that costs up to £15,000.

In 1988 we again have the main story covering English football hooliganism, this time in West Germany following England’s defeat by the Irish Republic. England finished bottom of its group losing all three matches. Frank Bough is reported to be taking a complete break from his TV commitments following a scandal that he had been taking cocaine and was involved in sex parties with prostitutes while working as a breakfast time presenter.

In 1989 the main story features a model who made money as a Marilyn Monroe lookalike but who has followed her tragic idol to the grave by suicide. Two thirds of the front page is given over to a photograph of her pouting and holding a nightie against her otherwise naked body but there is also a picture of Princess Diana in a dazzling dress at the previous night’s premiere of the latest James Bond film “Licence to Kill”.

In 1990 the main story is again from football, this time the World Cup in Italy where a beautiful hostess looking after England’s World Cup players has been booted out of the team’s camp amid rumours of hijinks with players. There’s no photo of this particular beauty but there is of another one - Rod Stewart's latest girlfriend.

1991 features a Gulf war story. A young Wren and a married naval officer were court-martialed. Each was fined £750 and severely reprimanded for being found naked together in a bunk aboard a warship in the Gulf.  Martina Navratilova is reported to be being sued for half of her fortune by her lesbian lover.

In 1992 a third of the front page of the Sunday Mirror is given to referencing inside stories but the main story is about Earl Spencer speaking out about his sister Princess Diana’s marriage crisis.

In 1993 nearly half the front page announces a new Scratch and Win game. The main story is about a double agent, an IRA terrorist who became the police’s number one informer.

In 1994 the front page is divided between a story about Mike Tyson being high on drugs the night he raped a teenage beauty queen and of a policeman who was ordered to pay £50 compensation to a 14 year old who was given an old-fashioned clip round the ear.

In 1995 a massive headline about a mother disowning her son despite his record lottery win dwarfs the story about a likely challenge to Prime Minister John Major apparently by Norman Lamont which I’m fairly certain from memory never happened.

In 1996 again 1/3 of the front page announces instant scratch cards while a huge headline apparently gives the Mirror an exclusive about Euro 96 saying that the police will be ready for the Scottish fans coming to Wembley with the warning “We’ll search your sporrans". John Major is still in the news, this time when Lady Thatcher has given financial support to Bill Cash, one of his chief tormentors on Europe.

By 1997 the front page barely has any editorial. Instead there is a huge picture with a headline “Gorgeous! George medal for brave Lisa Potts”. She was awarded the George medal in the birthday Honours list after she had survived a machete attack.

In 1998 Alan Shearer, captain of the England World Cup team, promises that he’ll be coming home with the World Cup and the England team all plan to make a donation from the pool sponsorship money to the Princess of Wales Memorial fund, depending on their progress. They lost on penalties in the Round of 16 to Argentina after David Beckham was notoriously sent off. David Batty missed his penalty. He said it was the first he had ever taken.

In 1999 actually shows a picture of the body of a Serbian special policeman who was shot dead in Pristina the day before by Paras as the fragile peace in Kosovo threatened to erupt into bloody confrontation.

In 2000 football again takes the entire front page as David Beckham received a hail of abuse from England fans following the 3-2 defeat by Portugal at Euro 2000.

2001 Princess Diana, who’s been dead for nearly 4 years now, is still the main story as her brother Earl Spencer reveals unseen childhood photos of his sister. The Daily Mirror has another exclusive about what happened in the Conservative party as William Hague’s allies launched an “astonishing attack” on Michael Portillo as he officially entered the Tory leadership race.

In 2002 the Daily Mirror, normally a staunch supporter of the Labour government, has the following headline “Nuclear fear in Kashmir, mayhem in Israel, famine in Africa, Bin Laden plotting new attacks, rotting railways, crumbling hospitals, decaying schools, exploding crime… and this is the grave matter of state that is concentrating the mind of our Prime Minister”. The issue was whether the Prime Minister might walk to Westminster Hall or take a car and the Daily Mirror’s verdict: “Cobblers.” But for the full excruciating story you had to turn to page 2.

2003 promises another exclusive where “Sadie (whoever she is) will tell the truth about Jude (I assume Jude Law) and me”.

In 2004 football again dominates the front page as England loses to France 2-1 and the picture shows David Beckham in tears.

In 2005 almost the entire front page is given over to a picture of Michael Jackson who’s been cleared of all 10 charges in his sex abuse trial.

By 2006 the front page of the Daily Mirror primarily refers to stories inside it. There is one huge headline “No more let offs” which is apparently an exclusive that paedophiles will no longer be let off with the derisory prison sentences which the Mirror claims is a major victory for the newspaper.

In 2007 the main headline refers to an anonymous letter to a Dutch paper claiming that Madeleine McCann’s body may have been dumped in a shallow grave nine miles from where she vanished. Why the newspaper decides this is a major story is utterly beyond me as tragic as this case undoubtedly was there has never been any accurate information until perhaps today.

In 2008 fully 80% of the front page refers to other stories inside. The one headline front page story is apparently that Wayne Rooney surprised his bride Coleen at their wedding reception by leaping on the stage with Westcliffe to serenade her.

In 2009 the Daily Mirror again gives its front page story headlines to the Madeleine McCann case with again rumour and speculation and no new facts.

In 2010 it was World Cup time again with a picture of Stephen Gerard this time saying “We can do it!” But they couldn’t. But the main story has the most indirect reference to the World Cup by showing a picture of the girlfriend wearing an England bikini who has been ditched by the goalkeeper Robert Green just before the World Cup. From my recollection that didn’t help him with his form.

In 2011 the main story is a rather sad one about a lady who was punched and kicked when her cousin accidentally dropped a glass off the pub table. She fell into a wall and broke her neck and became paralysed.

In 2012 there’s a big picture of the Duchess of Cambridge. But the main story is of a couple being ordered to stay away from the funeral of the six children they’re accused of killing after they received death threats in the wake of the fire in which the children died.

In 2013 with a simple headline "The Savage” is a picture of an apparently one eyed man who was jailed for the rest of his life for the horrific murder of two WPCs.

In 2014 again it was World Cup time, with the manager Roy Hodgson appealing for support from the people back home as England face Italy in Brazil. They lost to Italy 2-1, to Uruguay also 1-2 and gained their only point against Costa Rica coming bottom of the group. And again after the honours list there is a picture of a teenager with cancer who’s been awarded an MBE just days before he died.

2015 has a rather confusing story where apparently a couple has had their wedding ceremony paid for at a cost to taxpayers of £5000. The taxpayers have also paid the cost of £2500 for an NHS operation to improve their sex life. But you have to read the full story on pages 4 and 5 to make sense of this.

In 2016 we have another football story but again it’s about hooligans, this time hard-core Russian thugs are at large and planning to target the England versus Wales match at Euro 16 in France. England won 2-1 but was knocked out in the Round of 16 by lowly Iceland while Wales got through to the semi-finals where they lost to the eventual winners Portugal.

The Mirror claims in 2017 a terror exclusive with the SAS posing as beggars to take on terrorists. I would have thought that the SAS would be quite unlikely to tell any journalists what they were up to.

In 2018 the Daily Mirror really work themselves up into a frenzy after finding out that Theresa May's husband's firm invests in medicinal cannabis while the drug is banned in the UK and apparently sick kids are desperate for it. I didn’t realise that either the Prime Minister or her husband had anything to do with what the NHS decides to prescribe or not prescribe.

In 2019 the Mirror really was struggling for a story. Their number one front page story refers to the outrage of BBC stars demanding that plans to scrap free TV licenses for over 75 are ditched. Len Goodman, 75, slammed the proposal as “rotten”, Dame Esther Rantzen, 78, called the plan “cruel” and actor Ricky Tomlinson, 79 apparently joined protesters who marched to the BBC’s MediaCity headquarters in Salford to call for the move to be scrapped.

So I have found this fascinating to look back over my life in this way. But I think the standards of this once great popular newspaper have dropped alarmingly, at least judging by its front cover. In the 1960s there were often powerful editorials on the front cover. In the recent past that has gone completely and quite trivial stories are given undue prominence. And I do not make this point just to criticise a left-wing tabloid. I’m sure it would be similar if I had looked at the front pages of the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and the Sun, since it replaced the Daily Herald in 1964.

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