The Eastern Daily Press – known locally as the EDP – is one of Britain’s regional newspapers with surviving real influence. It is said to be still the highest selling newspaper in Norfolk. My grandparents had the EDP delivered every day, plus the North Norfolk News on Fridays (and the Pink’Un on Saturdays). They would never have dreamt of buying a national paper.
It was founded in the mid nineteenth century by the leading Norwich families – the Colemans (of mustard fame), Jarrolds (publishers and booksellers) and the Copemans. There was another family too but their name escapes me. What the Copemans did apart from the paper I am not sure, but they ran the paper literally for generations and produced at least one great editor, Tom Copeman, an inspirational man of a radical turn of mind, In the early 1970s, Tom retired to Sheringham, where he lived three streets from us.
I think I first got to meet the retired Tom at a Third World First meeting when I was about fourteen. He was, I think, quietly amused by my strong desire for justice allied to ignorance of – well, almost everything. We formed an unlikely friendship and I used to visit him on winter’s evenings, sit on his floor,and drink his coffee, chat and learn. I would meet people who to my small world seemed extraordinarily cosmopolitan. (You will laugh at me, but when I went to Chicago at the age of 20, I was asked if I wanted some pizza, and I had never heard the word before)!
I remember Tom telling me he had been sent to Arctic Russian – Murmansk I think – to link with the White Russians and fight the bolsheviks. It had been a complete shambles; they were not equipped properly for the Arctic and casualties had been very high, despite never really working out who they were meant to fight. The terrible futility and suffering of it all had convinced him that wars should only be fought in direct self-defence.
Tom left an imprint on my political thinking which undoubtedly helped me form the broadly liberal views I have stuck with since those days. If it were not for Tom and a few others like him, I would not have been the only person to quit the FCO or security services over what the government has finally admitted is a policy of using intelligence obtained by torture.
All of which I hope leads you to understand why I was a bit hurt to read this in the EDP today:
Mr Murray was appointed British ambassador to Uzbekistan at the relatively young age of 43, and was dismissed from the post in October 2004. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office denied any controversy and said it was for “operational reasons”.
He separated from his wife, with whom he has two children, after starting a relationship with an Uzbek woman whom he met while she was working as a belly dancer in a night club. She followed him when he left Uzbekistan and they married in May.
I do trust that, in the interests of balance, the EDP will publish a detailed history of the love lives of all the other candidates for the last seven years.
Sadly, the EDP has become perhaps the most rabidly Conservative paper in the UK. Its coverage of the largest political demonstration the UK has ever seen was, amazingly, even more biased than that of the Sun. The EDP ran an editorial denouncing the “ragbag coalition” of people it characterised as Marxists, supporters of dictatorship, pacifists and swampies. If there are over a million of those in the country, we are in trouble.
I hope the EDP has very deep pockets, because it employs as a columnist the well known libeller, Tory Iain Dale. Dale recently admitted guilt in libelling Tom Watson MP, and cost the Mail on Sunday 350,000 pounds including all costs. I have a notion of how I might find I am able to fund my Norwich campaign…
Iain Dale is of course all over the media nowadays and has become a political force to be reckoned with. In fact, through his EDP column, we can now see what psephologists are dubbing the “Iain Dale effect” for the Tories.
The “Iain Dale effect” can be seen most clearly in North Norfolk, where Iain Dale was the Tory parliamentary candidate at the last general election. Look at the council results last Thursday for North Norfolk.
Look at that map. You can immediately see Iain Dale’s constituency. Just join up those two big yellow blocks. Against the trend in the rest of Norfolk and the rest of the region, in North Norfolk there was a swing from the Tories to the Lib Dems of seven per cent and the Lib Dems had a net gain from the Tories of four seats.
That’s the Iain Dale effect.
The Tories of North Norfolk have sensibly dumped him in favour of some fat Norwich solicitor. I do hope he turns up in Norwich North to campaign against me. Could be just the boost I need.
I can’t let that map go without congratulating Brian Hannah on his victory in Sheringham. Brian’s father Joe was my grandfather Henry Grice’s best friend. Joe taught me to cut hay with a scythe, which is much harder than it looks. I shall stop before I drown in nostalgia.