Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Walter Ellis: 'Why I dislike Mark Law'

My campaign to get Duncan Fallowell reinstated as The First Post's High Culture columnist gathers momentum. Writer Walter Ellis confides to Arcati why he dislikes the prudish editor of the online news magazine, Mark Law. What is it with editors - are they all cunts? Perhaps Mr Law would like to write in and answer that one ...

I like the First Post, which is intelligent, original and smart. But I don’t like Mark Law.

Many years ago, after I was forcibly moved from the Sunday Telegraph, where I was chief feature writer, to the oped desk of the Daily Telegraph, I found myself working for Law. He took an instant dislike to me, telling me on our first meeting that I might have found life easy at the Sunday but that things would be very different at the Daily.

Within a week, I was effectively banned from going to lunch. My job, I was told, was to pick up my brief after conference and then deliver no later than 4pm. Little that I wrote was used. After a month or so, things came to a head. On his way out to lunch, Law instructed me to produce 1,200 words on the Chinese Secret Service, which he said was a subject of growing interest to the Government. The article was to be on his desk on his return.

I’m not sure I even knew at the time that the Chinese had a secret service. The Library had one tiny cutting, no more than 150 words; the Foreign Office said they would get back to me after lunch (then didn’t); Chatham House said they would need several days notice before coming up with any kind of an expert. The U.S. embassy advised me to call the State Department. The State Department told me to call back later.

Come three o’clock, I had nothing. When Law returned from lunch, I confessed my failure. The great man – known to my late colleague, Simon O’Dwyer-Russell, as the Chocolate Teapot – looked at me with contempt. Then he opened his desk drawer and took out a book, which he handed to me, commenting sourly: “Then I suppose you’d better have this!” The book, a review copy (which I still have), was by Roger Faligot and Remi Kauffer. It was called “The Chinese Secret Service”.

I left the Telegraph for the Sunday Times weeks later. Last year, having been alerted to the First Post, I wrote a conciliatory letter to Law asking if he would be interested in occasional contributions from me in New York. Life, after all, is short. I enclosed five proposals. I quote his reply in full:

'Walter, I fear there isn’t anything here. We are fairly well covered for the US. It would have to be something quite off beat. Mark"

Truly a prince among men. I remember now that when I heard he had been fired from the Sunday Telegraph for insubordination, I was really upset.


Duralex said...

Ahem. I hope you're out of that guy's reach now, Walter, otherwise this is suicide. :-)

Anonymous said...

Law, and Ellis, sound like cunts.

Walter Ellis said...

Thank you, Anonymous. And the same to you. Who are you, anyway? Some vapid little nobody, I'd guess. A prat, a schmuck, a bad smell, a toe rag, the rusty-looking ring round the toilet just before you squirt on the Domestos.

And Duralex, I know what you mean. But sometimes the satisfaction of speaking the truth is greater than the fear – or threat – of repercussions. Anyway, I'm coming up to my 59th birthday and what remains of my career is at the fag-end stage.

Be assured, however, should I become aware of a legal fatwah, I shall hit back with vigour.

Incidentally, Madame, I don't think all editors are ... er ... rapscallions. Some are, some aren't. Perry Worsthorne was a gent. Andrew Neil was (what shall we say?) difficult. He hired me as a foreign correspondent, appointed me a columnist, then sued me for libel. Paul Dacre (contrary to his reputation) looks after his staff and takes time to respond to queries. Max Hastings was a brute, but straight-talking and brilliant. He taught me how to eat artichokes.

Set against any of the above, Mark Law hardly registers. And yet, against all expectations, he somehow manages to preside over a first-class website. Who'd have thunk it?

Arcati said...

Walter Ellis! I swear you've bloomed since exposure to the fantastical Arcati experience - what I can do for Molly I can do for you.

You should allow yourself to be email-interviewed by Arcati on the theme of editors you've known ... it would be sure to be a bestclicker.

I am happy to report that this posting is getting quite a few visits from the nation's media megas - I can almost hear the drip drip of saliva on keyboards. I always did have keen hearing.

The Daughter-of-a-Bitch said...

"You should allow yourself to be email-interviewed by Arcati on the theme of editors you've known ... it would be sure to be a bestclicker."

Will Mr. Ellis resist the temptation of selling his soul to the Devil? That is the question!

Anonymous said...

"Will Mr. Ellis resist the temptation of selling his soul to the Devil? That is the question! "

Do let's hope so. Further contributions from Mr. Ellis would lend an unfortunate and unbecoming air of semi-credibility to this oasis of inconsequential nattering and nastiness. I admit, I'm loathe to see Arcati win even such a questionable coup.

Anonymous said...

What about Harold Evans and Donald Trelford ?


Walter Ellis said...

A tempting offer, Madame, but I think your readers have probably heard quite enough from me already.

CUNT said...

Indeed we have heard enough from Walter to last at least one lifetime.

Reading his drivel makes one's eyes Walter.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Walter Ellis said...

I seem to have offended you, "Cunt". You're obviously a man of deep feelings. But didn't you used to call yourself "anonymous"? I'm sure I recognise the lack of style. To be honest, though, I preferred it when I didn't have to forget your name.

I won't comment on Melissa's ravings. But if there really is a moderator keeping an eye on this blog, it's time she got her act together.

That's it. I'm off. And I won't be back. Like Tony Blair, I like to leave my public calling for more.

CUNT said...

Hi Willy Walt. Glad to hear you're leaving us (you're a pompous cunt of miniscule talent).

Mark said...

What the fuck is all this? Is everyone round here barking? Who is 'Cunt'? You're all fired.