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heavily on reader feedback. ‘We campaigned against bullying in schools,‘ says Laird, ‘and I was personally astounded at the result. The phone lines were absolutely jammed with people telling quite horrific stories. We‘d obviously touched a raw nerve. It‘s the role of the newspaper to give people a chance to express this problem. It‘s all down to the readers. Ifwe‘re not doing the job properly they are very quick to let us know.‘
The Record tends to avoid the promotional excesses of the national tabloids, and had nothing to do with the recent ‘Spot The Balls‘ fiasco, even when its sister paper the Daily Mirror joined in. Laird stresses that ‘We mustn‘t treat the reader like an idiot‘ and prefers more practical promotional schemes by offering readers savings vouchers for children‘s clothes or a free bet on the Grand National. ‘Obviously promotions can increase sales, but the Record readers have come to expect them now. it‘s just part ofthe service.‘
Endell Laird does not really fit the Spitting Image caricature ofthe tabloid journalist. A cautious man, considering every word before speaking. he finds it difficult to conceal his distaste for the excesses of his rivals. The Sun has made a concerted attempt to undermine the Records position in Scotland. without any great success. The Record has remained aloof from any suggestion of a tabloid war, and the circulation figures bear them out. but the Sun has occasionally resorted to dirty tactics, including a personal attack on Laird. Occasionally being scooped. as with the Mo Johnston transfer story. rankles, but the Sun still do not pose a serious threat.
Not that the paper can afford to get complacent. The fact that the Record reaches such a large pr0portion of the population already makes increasing the circulation difficult, and the paper is slightly handicapped by a West Coast bias. ‘It is a danger,‘ admits Laird, ‘in the same way that Fleet Street is obsessed with London news, we‘re obviously no different. It does work that way, the closer you are to your home base the stronger your circulation.‘ Although Laird denies the paper concentrates on expanding into any one area, the recent Press & Journal dispute has
resulted in a higher profile for the Record in the north east.
The Record fits ﬁrmly into the tabloid mould, with a punchy colloquial style but Laird insists that there is room for good writers on the paper, although this seems to include allowing Jim Blair to write a regular male-chauvinist column entitled ‘Pig Tales‘. Certainly the Record isn‘t above the casual sexism of the genre, the traditional use of the scantily-clad model to illustrate a heatwave article, the candid picture of the Duchess of York‘s thighs as she gets out of a sports car. It‘s all part of the game and expected by the readers, but sits unhappily next to the paper‘s much-touted ‘left-of- centre social co'nscience.‘
The Record‘s biggest story of recent times was the Lockerbie disaster, where newspapers came in for heavy criticism for their intrusion into private grief. The whole question arose of how much suffering newspapers could show to give the real story, and how much they were pandering to an audience of ghouls. ‘That‘s always a very difficult matter,‘ says Laird. ‘People react differently to griefand tragedy, but I‘ve sometimes found that families afterwards are glad we‘ve shown those pictures. that it showed that their relative dying was an important event, that they didn‘t die for nothing.‘
The success of the Record has been such that there has been no interference from the proprietor Robert Maxwell or perhaps that‘s a reason for the success. While Mirror Group Newspapers employees down south are disenchanted enough to suggest that the death of Max Wall is proof that God can't spell, Laird has nothing but praise for his chief. ‘He‘s been quite tremendous and given me absolute freedom. His one instruction was ‘get on with it‘.‘
It seems sensible advice. Laird knows the strengths and weaknesses of his paper and remains calm in the face of the most hurtful personal abuse from his rivals. The only time he becomes animated was when defending the importance of the ‘Save ()ur Scottish Mince‘ campaign. ‘I like mince, you like mince, we all like mince,‘ he shouted. ‘How dare anyone tell us what we can and cannot eat'?‘ God help anyone who has a go at the Forfar Bridie.
NON-FICTION GIBBERING WRECK
I Not a Man to Match Her Wendy Webster (The Women‘s Press £6.95) You don‘t need a commitment to feminism to read Webster‘s book, as the light it sheds on Margaret Thatcher’s psyche is crucial for a general understanding of her style of leadership.
As you might expect, when Thatcher’s attitude towards herself in relation to other women is put under the microscope, a virulent mass of duplicity swims into focus, thinly shrouded by the usual smokescreen of her Grantham childhood. Refusing to take this Never-Never-Land at face value, Webster instead examines her actions in the emancipating atmosphere of the 505 and 60s, an era to which Britain’s ﬁrst female Prime Minister owes an unacknowledged debt. Webster makes sure we don‘t forget that the ideal role Thatcher presents to women is exactly the opposite of what she advised and did herselfduring the 505. Her hypocrisy, and her patronising attitude to both sexes, is founded on the unshakeable conviction that she is uniquely suited for glorious leadership, as can be seen in her dealings with Queen and Cabinet. To find the roots ofsuch conceit. one does have to look back to Grantham — but Thatcher’s selective memory betrays that not all was well or happy then.
In Nora Man to Match Her, Margaret Thatcher is hoisted up her own gibbet on practically every page. Until the day the popular press and brown-nosed knighthood- craving biographers wake up, that alone makes it the perfect gift. (Alastair Mabbott)
BIRTH OF A NATION
I Scotland -A Concise History: BC To 1990 James Halliday (Gordon Wright £4.95) It is a brave person indeed who would propose to write the history ofScotland from before Christ to the present day in the first place. But to do so in only 143 pages is foolhardy. Nevertheless. James Halliday takes on that very task. tracing the history of the Scots from around 6000 years ago to mode rn times.
Inevitably. the magnitude of the undertaking overwhelms the size of the book, which is only able to give a rough sketch of the dramas which have shaped the country. But. though rather a dry read, it packs in a surprising amount of information. Unfortunately, Halliday‘s history is that of kings, queens and the dates of various battles and wars, rarely touching on the role ofordinary Scots in major historical events. Its tone is tinged with nationalism, but, within the constraints ofits length. the book provides a useful source of information. (Joe Owens)
I A Sort of Clowning (Life and Times, Volume II: 1940-59) Richard Hoggart (Chatto & Windus £14.95) While Charles and Sebastian were sunning themselves in Venice, I had to stay behind in Oxford and revise Hoggart‘s The Uses ofLireracy for the English Lit resit viva, this being a standard set text which nobody actually ever reads by choice for pleasure. It is hated by radicals, whether from working- or middle-class backgrounds, because ofits sentimental view ofproletarian life — all that dancing in the streets rubbish.
A Sort ofC/owning. the author‘s second volume of autobiography, begins with the start of World War II (Hoggart had a good war in the Royal Artillery, stationed underneath the main stand of Vomera football stadium). ‘Naples was Leeds in technicolour. . . Leeds with knobs on.‘ There he started the egalitarian Three Arts Club, where privates and captains exhibited degrees of artistic talent which supposedly obliterated class and rank.
After the war he took up a teaching position with the extra-mural department of Hull University, after many other rejections — ‘clearly a Leeds First was heavily discounted on the bureau de change‘. He doth protest too much that provincial universities are as sparing with their firsts as Oxbridge. which he insists admits more than a few who are intellectually unfitted but who have the right connections. The possibility that they are centres ofexcellence is not considered. The volume finishes on the verge ofthe l960s. when he will become a great working-class man ofletters. thereby giving weight to Evelyn Waugh‘s assertion that the ‘Hoopers‘ of the world were about to take over. (David M. Bennie)
I Winners (And Other Losers in War and Peace) Arnold Arnold (Paladin £5.99) An entertaining entry into the pop psychology charts. this book‘s basic premise is that the ‘draw‘ is the ‘superior‘ outcome in any relationship — in games. in bed. or in politics. A pot-pourri of conventional psychology. sociology and anthropology. it is a thought-provoking read nevertheless. For example, he argues that accidents involving organic behaviour never occur by chance; in the final analysis they are conditionally deterministic. This is frightening stuff for someone like me who sits in the hall for an extra minute in case I get hit by a bus (the extra minute could prove to be the determining factor in any collision!). The idea that Gorbachev is an enigma to the Americans because he is a natural 'draw-player‘ explains why they don‘t understand or trust
74 The List 15 - 28 June 1990