I’ve always rather admired Hugh Grant, so it was almost a pleasure to be beaten up
by him on Newsnight last Friday. He was attacking the celebrity-hunting media, whereas I set out to defend free press and self-regulation of the media. If you’re going to have sympathy with
any Hollywood figure, you’d have sympathy with Hugh: he’s a single man who has never tried to moralise, and has cameras pointing at him everywhere he goes. Besides, he made an
impassioned and powerful case against the intrusion of the paparazzi — while yours truly was left defending the Press Complaints Commission. But I didn’t know, until I met him that
night, that Hugh is also a Spectator subscriber — and has been for years.
Before we were on air, I asked him what he reads first: often James Delingpole, he said, Rod, and “Taki, when he’s sober.” But his highlight is what he called “the best
column in Britain”: Low Life by Jeremy Clarke. “It is absolute genius,” he said, adding that “it proves, week in week out, that you don’t need to be rich, or have famous
friends, to have a fascinating life” — fascinating enough to write a column about and develop a following that includes Oxford dons and (as I now know) Hollywood actors.
It’s as good a description of Jeremy’s column that I’ve heard. The stories in it are all real: of his travails with his son, his romance with ‘Cowgirl,’ the drink,
the misadventures. When he comes out with sentences like, “I was lying on my back on a wet pavement near Piccadilly Circus trying to sleep,” you know it’s actually true. It has no “peg”: just the life of a bloke who is far more representative of the rest of the country then the slebs of whom we read so much.