When Robert Maxwell bought the Mirror Group, in July 1984, no commentator gave him a more enthusiastic or reckless welcome to the Street of Shame than Paul Johnson. 'I don't care a damn about his early business record or what the Board of Trade said about him umpteen years ago,' Johnson roared in his Spectator column. 'That is all ancient history.' He predicted, approvingly, that the new proprietor would soon oversee a mass eviction of the Mirror's overfed, overindulged journalists. 'Maxwell is a hard man, with a sharp nose for extravagance, waste and freeloading of any kind.'
As so often, old Ginger Johnson was as wrong as wrong can be. Maxwell had a 'sharp nose for extravagance' only in the sense that a cat has a sharp nose for fish: he was himself an emperor of excess, a grand vizier of gluttony – in short, a greedy