Murdoch's monster movie double feature: 'Olivia' Newton-Dunn and Piers Morgan present Troll Talk TV...
Piers Morgan's return to The Sun begins a new era of fake controversy.
“Yes, he’s back!” is the kind of line usually reserved for Halloween reboots, as Michael Myers lumbers into frame once again. It’s appropriate then that it was the front-page headline chosen by The Sun to trumpet the return of one of the British media’s most monstrous egos — Piers Morgan — to the pages of the tabloid where he started out in 1988.
His first column — an ‘open letter’ to Boris Johnson — is the opening salvo in a £50 million three-year deal1 between Morgan and Murdoch, ahead of the launch of the desiccated antipodean antichrist’s Talk TV. Morgan will present the flagship nightly show with his lead-in provided by neo-nazi conspiracy toting, human oil slick Tom ‘Olivia’ Newton-Dunn.
The news that Newton-Dunn is stepping down as Chief Political Commentator at Times Radio — a job invented purely to get him out of The Sun — gathered more blue ticks under his tweet than you'd find in a bucket of hungry bloodsuckers.
The congratulations were fulsome and found no space to mention that time he published the swiftly memory-holed ‘Hijacked Labour’ story based on neo-nazi conspiracy theories on The Sun’s front page.
…or his more recent front-page fiction for The Times which claimed Albania was going to process asylum applications for the UK and misgendered the country’s foreign minister in the process.
And, of course, there was no mention of the 2014 trial of The Sun’s former Whitehall editor, Clodagh Hartley, in which she was found not guilty of organising payments to a corrupt HMRC official in return for stories. Newton-Dunn had a starring role in Hartley’s evidence as she alleged that he bullied her, stole credit, and forced her to take time off with stress.
I’m sure being a junior staffer on The News Desk — which appears to be the name of his new show3 — will be a hoot.
Mic Wright @brokenbottleboySo that’s the name of Tom Newton Dunn’s forthcoming Talk TV show then… https://t.co/nyYkdGYbS7
The only way Newton-Dunn — who’ll continue to present his interminable Times Radio Sunday politics show T&G4 for the time being — could fail upwards faster would be if he got himself a seat on Jeff Bezos’ next adjacent-to-space flight and resolutely refused to do up his harness.
But just as he will be when Talk TV launches, Newton-Dunn is the understudy to Morgan in today’s newsletter. I’ll cover him more in future instalments as I have in the past with issues not just on the Aryan Unity conspiracy theories but his moist-eyed remembrance of his wife-killing mentor, John Kay.
Morgan’s first column was trailed on Friday with an ‘exclusive’ interview by Clemmie Moodie (who’d bagged another enormously tricky ‘exclusive’ front-page exclusive on him the previous day) in which he continued his stalker-like obsession with the Duchess of Sussex.
The piece begins with Moodie claiming Morgan was “unceremoniously axed from Good Morning Britain” — he wasn’t, he quit — which allowed The Sun’s star signing to return to one of his favourite topics: Ranting about a woman he claims to have met once in 2016. He says:
The column is called Uncensored because it does what it says on the tin.
Effectively I was censored at my previous job and told to apologise to Meghan Markle for an honestly held opinion, which obviously I wasn’t going to do.
Pushy little Princess Pinocchio tried her utmost to cancel me, and she will be in for a very unpleasant surprise when I emerge, like Lazarus, from my den.
It was a pretty bruising experience on Good Morning Britain but I’m now working somewhere where I’m free to express my opinions.
Morgan’s last column for MailOnline was published on 15 December. He was not ‘censored’ by ITV — he left — and then spent months continuing to be paid handsomely by Lord Rothermere before his transfer to News Corp was finalised.
His most recent column attacking Meghan, using that “Princess Pinocchio” jibe with which he’s so pleased, was published on 2 December. He wrote 15 columns about her in 2021 alone. And he seems likely to continue the one-sided feud in 2022; the tactic of picking ‘fights’ with prominent women — especially younger women of colour — has been one he’s used to maintain his profile for years.
The notion that he has ever been ‘censored’ is laughable. His column doesn’t need to be “uncensored” because he never says anything that would remotely upset Rupert Murdoch. He is an ersatz rebel. True mavericks aren’t given £50 million contracts by press barons. Morgan’s job is to appear controversial while saying the most witlessly obvious provocations.
His first Sun column is an ‘open letter’ to Boris Johnson — a double-page spread with one half dedicated to the copy and the other to a full-length picture of Morgan5 — castigating the Prime Minister as a “shambles”. A headline banner tells the reader “he’s saying what we’re all thinking”. It’s unintentionally honest: Morgan is a cold reader of public sentiment and a marionette for Murdoch.
If The Sun decides to swing firmly behind Boris Johnson again, Morgan’s column will follow suit. And even now, his copy is, as ever, more about him than the supposed subject of the piece.
Morgan recalls interviewing Johnson for GQ in 2007 (“It was one of the last times you subjected yourself to a lengthy on-the-record interrogation by a journalist…”), mentions seeing him recently (“…at The Sun’s brilliant Who Cares Wins awards…”) and plugs the Talk TV show (“…[be] one of the first guests on my new global TV show…)
The obsequiousness that first gained him success as the writer of The Sun’s Bizarre column is in full effect in this apparently excoriating column, which still finds time to call Johnson’s cobbled together mess of a Churchill biography “excellent”. Having read several of Morgan’s books — including the allegedly Marina Hyde-ghosted6 The Insider — I can see why his bar is so low.
Piers Morgan — a man who was fired as editor of The Daily Mirror for publishing faked photos, whose evidence to the Leveson Inquiry was described by the titular lord as “utterly unpersuasive” and “sufficiently unembarrassed by what was criminal behaviour that he was prepared to joke about it”, and who was enormously lucky to avoid the consequences of the City Slickers affair — to accuse anyone else of having “[an] aversion to honesty and accountability” is like having Fred West critique your patio.
If Boris Johnson pleases Rupert Murdoch again, Morgan will pretend that the Prime Minister was shocked into action by his column. If not, he’ll turn his praise to the next Tory favoured by the boss.
Back in 1995, when Morgan was editor of The News of the World — a paper where he never, ever, ever witnessed any suspicious behaviour — he published photos of Earl Spencer’s then-wife Victoria Lockwood leaving a rehab clinic. Murdoch murmured that “the boy went too far”. In private, he wasn’t bothered, and now he’s hired Morgan again to “go too far” without ever crossing the red top lines he sets.
Despite the big money agreement and the pro-wrestling style character that Morgan plays, he’s still just the monster and Murdoch is his maker.
That figure is an interesting one; the official number hasn’t been put out there but Kelvin MacKenzie — the creature who first brought Morgan to The Sun — claims it’s that much and Press Gazette assure its readers that it’s right.
They’d simply parodied the cover art of a Black Sabbath album.
It started off as G&T but required a reshuffle when Gloria De Piero abandoned ship for GB News.
His online byline picture makes him look like a man who has trapped his testicles in his zipper but is trying to style it out.
She’s thanked in the acknowledgement for that and other reasons.