Paper tussle over Woodhead

9th March 2001 at 00:00
News reaches the Diary of a playground spat over Chris Woodhead between those two keepers of the right-wing flame, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. It has been said that the Man Who Inspected Schools For The Queen was a dead cert to write for the Mail before signing with its broadsheet rival but Telegraph editor Charles Moore says "both went for him and we got him".

The broadsheet's success might have had something to do with the Mail, initially "very interested" in signing Woodhead up, suddenly going cold on the idea. Could this have been the result of pressure from Messrs Blair and Blunkett, who were horrified at the thought of Woodhead being unleashed on the millions of Mail readers, many of whom helped sweep Labour to victory in 1997? (Mr Blunkett and Mail editor Paul Dacre "get alongvery well", we are told.) The Telegraph insists that Woodhead soon realised he would not fit in at a paper that is "part of Blunkett's fan club". Fascinatingly, the Mail took a swipe at Woodhead last week, following his first piece for the Telegraph, opining in a leader that "he is not a politician and seems to have no real grasp of the world in which ministers must operate".

All this contrasts sharply with Woodhead's account of his principled departure in last Friday's Telegraph - he was "torn" between staying and going when "fate intervened in the form of a summons to the Secretary of State". Still, he clearly made the right decision (although he may be earning less at the Telegraph than at the Mail): Moore tells the Diary he is "delighted" with his star columnist's efforts to date.

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