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.