In the old days, the Financial Times didn’t do scoops. Indeed, it was so unkeen on being sensationalist, if it did happen to get a story it passed it on to some other paper, and then followed it up. So what, you ask, has come over Lionel Barber, editor of the FT, sending girls out on an undercover gig to discover sexist behaviour at the Presidents Club? Is it some late-life crisis? I mean, of all the editors in the trade, he, and the editor of the Economist, and obv this magazine, have least to worry about circulation, in that theirs are the papers people want to be seen reading. Probably more people carry the Economist than read it; the FT is a kind of accessory in business, like a girl’s handbag.
Anyway, it seems that readers agree. If you can afford £2.70, I commend to you the letters page today, which is stuffed full of letters from outraged readers complaining that the FT is now a sensationalist rag, that it should have been doing more on the Carillion fallout, that there were better uses for the undercover journalists, that good causes will be the losers from the downfall of the Presidents Club… etc etc. My favourite is headed: ‘Frankly, the FT ought to be ashamed of itself.’ ‘It saddens me that a highly respectable newspaper like the Financial Times should lower itself to the level of the gutter press,’ says Robert MacLachlan from Malmesbury. Quite so. Mind you there is an upside to the investigation. Until now, I had assumed that you could get away with anything, just anything, in contemporary Britain, on the basis you were doing it for sick kiddies. No longer.
PS. The oddest aspect of the story is that David Walliams has managed to escape with his brand reputation intact – not from the fact that he was compere for the event (and not for the first time), but that he had returned his fee for doing it. Fee? Fee? For a charity event? What’s he doing being paid for doing a gig for Great Ormond Street? I am a devotee of Mr Walliams, both as actor (loved his Bottom in a Midsummer Night’s Dream) and children’s author, but really…