Sir John Junor made his reputation mainly as the man prepared to be more bitchy about famous people than any other newspaper columnist. This was the basis on which he conducted his column on the Sunday Express, the paper he also edited for 32 years, and which underpins its less successful appearance nowadays in the Mail on Sunday. Junor is the man whose mind, however squalidly obsessed, they cannot gag. He is regarded by some people as a great journalist. But if he is, that is a tribute to the power of longevity and self-created myth. To be read for the studied perversity of one's opinions, and the calculated outrage provoked by one's means of expressing them, supplies celebrity of a sort. As a contribution to public knowledge and even public entertainment, though, it can easily be exaggerated, especially if this process enjoys the assistance of those who have from time to time been the butt of the column in question. This, if Junor's own account is to be believed, is roughly what has happened to him. His memoirs recount a lifetime not of controversy so much as of systematic tireless fawning, the regular stance not just of editor towards politician but of countless politicians towards the great man who commanded their access to the pages of the Sunday Express.
LRB 6 December 1990 | PDF Download