Nicholas Rankin

Memorable Deedes

At War With Waugh: The Real Story of Scoop


Macmillan 134pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

When the venerable Telegraph journalist William F Deedes, just a week short of his ninetieth birthday, was launching this book at the Hay Festival in May, a wag in the audience asked him to suggest a modern equivalent for the grandiose press baron Lord Copper in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. Deedes rolled his eyes, suggesting his fear of the sack, and then disingenuously offered Richard Desmond of the Express. Christopher Hitchens, on the same panel, instantly put forward the name of the Telegraph‘s current proprietor, Conrad Black. Lord Deedes’s face was a comic study that had the packed tent in fits of laughter. This is a man whose mixture of wisdom and apparent innocence plays well to the gallery. But the old cove’s charm masks great shrewdness. As the book jacket says, ‘Bill Deedes is the only person ever to have been both a Cabinet Minister and a national newspaper editor.’ He also got a good MC in the War and has known every Prime Minister in the last seventy-five years.

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