Another reason for Paul Dacre's delight in Allison Pearson's column
is that its debut coincided with that of Alice Thomson's "sparkling new column"
at the Daily Telegraph - a rather less promising beginning. The competition was
less happy with the coincidence; indeed, Canary Wharf insiders testify to the
howl of despair from editor-in-chief John Bryant's office that greeted the
unplanned simultaneous appearance. (The howls may have been aggravated by the
hours he had already spent hammering Thomson's prose into shape.) Bryant's
misgivings about the new column seem to be mounting, rather than quelled: last
week, the front page puff for Thomson's slot had shrunk to a minuscule mugshot
in which the Telegraph writer's comely features were all but invisible. Already,
wags in the industry are terming the half-page offering "Thomson's weakly
column", and it's not difficult to see why: Thomson's writing flounders as she
tries to strike the different notes required by a format made up of items about
Pop Idol, the Pony Club, and David Cameron. The column, which pulls Thomson out
of her traditional home in the 0p-ed pages, is seen as Bryant's effort to limit
her presence in the paper without alienating the hyper-networked Notting
Hillbilly. At Canary Wharf, few are convinced that the plan will work. "She will
invite Bryant to stay with her and Ed (husband Edward Heathcoat Amory) in the
country, and make sure that David and Sam Cameron are also staying, and that
Prince Charles and Camilla will look in on their way to Gloucestershire." With
friends like that, why not stick to interviews?
I have to admit that I do find some of Alice Thompson's columns and interviews a little gushing - particularly when they feature one D. Cameron, who she tends to paint as some sort of demi-God, but generally she's someone I always read, because she's always very well informed. And her joint interviews with Rachel Sylvester are quirky and fun and you always learn something about their subject (or sometimes victim) that you didn't know before. And isn't that what a good interview is all about? I wish I could say the same for Cristina Odone, who has become a sort of feminist version of Yasmin Alibhai Brown. Yasmin can't write an article without mentioning race, but Cristina does the same with gender. And God can it be boring. Perhaps she should find a different victim to stick her claws into next week. And no doubt she will...