My part in Thatchergate

I stumbled over the National Archive documents on ‘Thatchergate’ online including the correspondence from No10 and found reference to my exclusive. Not seen it before.

This was way back around 1983 and a tape was released mysteriously that some thought was a copy of an intercepted international phone call between Reagan and Thatcher colluding over the Falklands. Others thought is was a KGB plant. It went worldwide and was dubbed Thatchergate. I was tipped that it was a fake made by the anarchist punk band Crass. I went off to their Essex – yes Essex – farmhouse and met with Penny Rimbaud and fellow anarchos. Continue reading

Review of Jean Seaton’s Pinkoes and Traitors

Read Paul Lashmar’s review of Jean Seaton’s Pinkoes and Traitors – note this is only accessible to those with susbscriptions to British Journal of Film and TV.

Jean Seaton, Pinkoes and Traitors: The BBC and the Nation 1974–1987 (London: Profile Books, 2015), pp. 384, ISBN 978 1 84668 4746 (hb), £30.

Citation Information. Volume 12, Issue 4, Page 595-598, ISSN 1743-4521, Available Online October 2015 . DOI:

Mark Thatcher – 30 years on the story still percolates

I was fascinated to see this reprise of Mark Thatcher and Oman story that David Leigh and I broke 30 years ago.

From the Guardian on Monday.

Mark Thatcher ‘exiled’ from UK over business dealings, book claims

Biography of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher says her son was in effect forced to leave Britain because he was damaging her reputation
Alan Travis Home affairs editor

Last modified on Tuesday 6 October 2015 00.00 BST

Sir-Mark-Thatcher-arrives-008Margaret Thatcher’s son Mark was in effect forbidden to live in Britain after being repeatedly warned that he was damaging his mother’s reputation, according to her new biography. Senior Whitehall mandarins believed Sir Mark Thatcher’s business dealings were “driven by greed” and his mother’s attitude towards them “conveyed a whiff of corruption”.

The former Conservative prime minister even asked her principal private secretary Sir Clive Whitmore to tell Mark that he had to stop “trying to exploit his mother’s name” in his Middle East oil deals, but he refused. Whitmore said: “Mark was driven by greed and reluctant to pass up any opportunity.”

The life and times of Mark Thatcher

Robin Butler, who also served as Lady Thatcher’s principal private secretary when the Observer broke a story in 1984 about Mark and his mother’s involvement in a Cementation construction deal in Oman, was more severe. Other bidders for the contract had complained that Thatcher used her influence with the Sultan of Oman to get the contract for the firm Mark was working for.

Butler said: “He thought that Mrs Thatcher’s behaviour in Oman had conveyed a whiff of corruption, though she might not have regarded it as such. She had wanted to see Mark right. She sought the deal for Mark. She excluded everyone from her talks with the Sultan. Mark was dealing with Brigadier Landon, who was the Sultan’s go-between. She behaved in the most peculiar way. I suspected the worse.”

After the Cementation story appeared, it was decided by Denis Thatcher that it would be best for all concerned if Mark were to leave the country. Thatcher had “an air of resignation about it all, but was indulgent to Mark”, Whitmore said. “The rational prime minister knew well what he was up to, but the mother found it difficult to be tough with him.”

Source: oct/05/mark-thatcher-business-dealings- leave-uk-margaret-thatcher-biography

PL joins Journalism at Sussex University

I am delighted to say that on Thursday (1st Oct) I joined the University of Sussex as a Senior Lecturer in Journalism.

sussex_posterEverybody at the Falmer Campus has been extremely friendly and welcoming especially Prof Ivor Gaber who has organised a welcome buffet for me this weekend. Journalism is a developing subject at Sussex and I look forward to helping to create an exciting and dynamic environment for our students.

I already understand that the regional media are very supportive and I look forward to giving a talk to Brighton editors, NCTJ team at BJW and our students on Monday afternoon about my favorite subject – investigative journalism. I will miss the colleagues, students and alumni from Brunel many of whom I had developed good working relationships over the last six years.

But it was time to move on. Thanks for the bottle of Laphroaig. I wish my former colleagues Rachel Sharp and Jacquie Hughes the best of luck with their MA and PhD respectively.

Everyone knows where to find me and I am continuing to run my Facebook investigative page so can also be contacted through that. I’m looking to see some great journalism come out of Falmer