Is the Daily Telegraph becoming more like the News of the World than the News of the World?

Actually we all thought it was becoming more like the Daily Mail, given the presence of former Mail men in top positions including CEO Murdoch MacLennan, Daily editor Tony Gallagher (pictured), Sunday editor Ian MacGregor (those Scots again) and head of news Chris Evans (who doesn’t sound Scots).

So all of them, with exception of MacLennan, learned some at least of their trade from ferocious Mail editor in chief Paul Dacre (Dacre is said to have ignored the Mail’s then general manager MacLennan before he left to join the Telegraph in 2004).

But Dacre, keen though he is to unmask wrongdoers and his enemies (not necessarily the same thing) does not encourage his reporters to interview people under false pretences with tape recorders concealed in their smalls. That’s much more the style of Rupert Murdoch-owned The News of the World.

The unfortunate Vince Cable, still business secretary but no longer able to rule on media issues like News Corporation’s bid for all of BSkyB, was undone by two Daily Telegraph hackettes posing as single mothers and constituents of his. One of them on the tape supplied to the BBC sounds decidedly flirtatious.

Now this is all a bit iffy. Michael White, assistant editor of the Guardian and a veteran Parliamentary hand (and no softie) writes that Cable may have grounds to sue the Telegraph on breaches of both his privacy and Parliamentary privilege (the right of MPs to discuss any and every issue with their constituents in confidence). Writing in the same paper former Liberal Democrat MP and lawyer David Howarth writes that the two journalists may have committed a criminal offence.

There’s certainly a case to answer (on all charges, m’lud).

Cable has been humiliated and forced to resign a big part of his responsibilities because he used colourful language (referring to his “war on Murdoch”) rather than any wrongdoing.

And shouldn’t MPs be able to talk freely to people they see (in good faith) as their constituents? Imagine the carry-on if all these fetching young women (and others of course) were frisked in case they were armed with Daily Telegraph tape recorders.

In a final bizarre twist the Telegraph chose not to print Cable’s remarks about Murdoch (although it printed lots of others that were almost equally indiscreet), allegedly because it wanted him to stay in office to help prevent Murdoch buying the 61 per cent of Sky it doesn’t own. The BBC’s Robert Peston got hold of the tape.

But if the Telegraph, or some members of its management anyway, wanted to keep Vince in the driving seat why did it stake him out in the first place? Curiouser and curiouser.

And who were the Cable bimbos? Surely these super sleuths should be more widely known.

Under the Gallagher regime the Telegraph has already scored heavily by buying the disks containing the many and varied details of MPs’ expenses fiddles. It also secured the interview with government adviser Lord Young that led to him stepping down when his comment that “people had never had it so good” was published. Prime Minister David Cameron obviously thought this was such nonsense (people doing well under his regime? Perish the thought) that Young resigned.

So Daily Telegraph editor and hard man Gallagher is on a roll with scoops flowing as freely as the drinks used to on Fleet Street, the old ancestral home of the UK’s newspapers.

But some people in media, maybe even at the Telegraph, and certainly in politics are not quite so approving of these tactics. Gallagher’s predecessor Will Lewis went from boy wonder to not needed here in a remarkably short space of time.

The Telegraph is set for another lively year in 2011.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.