Richard Littlejohn

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Richard William Littlejohn [1] is an English author, broadcaster and journalist. He writes a twice-weekly column for the Daily Mail.

Littlejohn has been a columnist for The Sun and has written for The Spectator and the London Evening Standard. Littlejohn earned a place in the inaugural Press Gazette Newspaper Hall of Fame[2] as one of the most influential journalists of the past 40 years.[3]

Primarily a newspaper journalist, Littlejohn has also presented numerous radio and TV shows and has authored or co-authored several books. Although many of his newspaper columns are devoted to life and society in England, Littlejohn lives for much of the year in the United States.[4]

Early life[edit]

Littlejohn was born in Ilford, Essex on 18 January 1954.[1] His family moved to Peterborough when he was five.[5] His father worked as a policeman and then for British Rail.[1] Littlejohn passed the eleven-plus, obtaining the highest marks in his year.[1] He was offered a public school scholarship which he turned down because the school didn't play football, and subsequently attended Deacons Grammar School.[6][7]

Journalism[edit]

At 16, Littlejohn went to work as a trainee journalist in Peterborough. He worked for local newspapers during the early 1970s.[5] In the mid-1970s, he joined the Birmingham Evening Mail as an industrial correspondent.[6][8]

He worked at the London newspaper the Evening Standard from 1979 to 1989, initially as industrial editor, later a feature writer, then in 1988 as a columnist.[5] While industrial editor in the early 1980s he was asked to stand as a Labour Party candidate, which he declined.[9] In 1989 he joined The Sun as a columnist,[10] which attracted controversy, and he was voted "Irritant of the Year" at the 1992 What The Papers Say Awards.[5]

In March 1993 he gave his support to the "Save the New Statesman fund" to raise cash to contest libel suits served on the magazine by the then Prime Minister John Major and caterer Claire Latimer.[11]

In 1994, he left The Sun to write for the Daily Mail,[10] contributing columns on news and current affairs (in a similar format to his Sun column), and one on sport. His Mail columns earned him the title "Columnist of the Year" at the 1997 British Press Awards.[5]

In February 1998, Littlejohn became the UK's best-paid columnist when he returned to The Sun to write a twice-weekly column as part of a £1million deal, which also included presenting for BSkyB.[12]

In May 2005, the Mail announced that he was rejoining the paper in a move that Mail editor Paul Dacre described as "returning to his spiritual home".[13][14] The Sun sought an injunction to prevent Littlejohn writing for the Mail before his existing contract with them ended in February 2006, but the matter was later settled out of court and Littlejohn began writing for the Mail in December 2005.[10]

In addition to regular columns, Littlejohn has contributed articles to The Spectator[1] and Punch.[8]

One of Littlejohn's Sun columns – a 2004 skit, entitled "Rum, Sodomy and the Lifejacket", in which Lord Nelson is confronted with political correctness, compensation culture and the nanny state – has been published in newspapers, magazines, and websites with Littlejohn's writing credit removed.[15]

Radio[edit]

By the end of the 1980s, Littlejohn was known in London for his Evening Standard columns, and was invited on to radio programmes as a pundit. From 1991, he worked for the London radio station LBC, beginning with a regular opinion spot. LBC later gave Littlejohn an early afternoon show, Littlejohn's Long Lunch; the programme was a talk show featuring topical discussion, phone-ins, and guests. He later became permanent presenter of the morning show, replacing Michael Parkinson.[8]

During his time at LBC, Littlejohn was censured by the Radio Authority for breaching broadcasting rules. This culminated in the Radio Authority stating that he "had broken half-a-dozen rules and had incited violence"[16] due to an edition of his phone-in show in which he suggested the police should have used flamethrowers against a group of "militant homosexuals" protesting outside the House of Commons.[16]

On another LBC phone-in he was censured by the Radio Authority for describing the Royal Family as a "bunch of tax-evading adulterers".[17]

Television[edit]

After leaving LBC in 1994, Littlejohn was approached by BSkyB managing director (and former Sun editor) Kelvin MacKenzie, and was offered the chance to present a nightly current affairs show on the TV channel Sky News. Called Richard Littlejohn, the show ran for one year. It was not a success. Littlejohn expressed his disappointment, claiming that broadcasting regulations would not permit him to present the show in the style of Rush Limbaugh's programmes: "If Sky News could emulate its US sister Fox News... ratings would soon shoot past the Astra satellite. But the regulators won't allow it."[16][18] Later in 1994, Trevor Phillips of London Weekend Television hired Littlejohn to host a studio-based talk show entitled Richard Littlejohn Live And Uncut.[19] Phillips produced three series of the programme, which was transmitted only in the London area.

On Littlejohn's 8 July 1994 show, he was critical of two lesbians, one of whom was Linda Bellos. The film director Michael Winner, a guest on the show, attacked Littlejohn for his views and told him that the lesbians "have come across with considerable dignity and you have come across as an arsehole".[20]

Littlejohn hosted the first series of Channel 4's game show Wanted, a stand-in for Bob Mills).[21] Wanted aired in October 1996 and won a Silver Rose at the Festival Rose d'Or.[22] As part of a 1997 deal, which saw him return to The Sun, Littlejohn hosted a nightly talk show on Sky One called Littlejohn: Live And Unleashed.[23]

In early 2003 he returned to Sky News to present Littlejohn, a live talk show initially broadcast twice weekly but later extended to four nights per week. The programme was dropped on 8 July 2004 when Sky News changed format and replaced it with regular rolling news.[24]

On 9 July 2007, Channel 4 showed a documentary entitled The War on Britain's Jews?, written and narrated by Littlejohn.[25] Littlejohn has also appeared on BBC One's Question Time[26] and Have I Got News for You.[27]

Books[edit]

Littlejohn has authored or co-authored:

  • The Essex Girl Joke Book (1991, Corgi Publishing) – a collection of Essex girl jokes, co-written (with "Brent Wood" {Mitchell Symons}) under the pseudonym "Ray Leigh".
  • You Couldn't Make It Up (1995, Heinemann, ISBN 0-434-00238-0) – named after one of Littlejohn's catchphrases, and described on the jacket as "a brilliant collection of liberal-skewering wit and wisdom", this is a book of recollections and opinion pieces on subjects such as political correctness, politicians, corporate "fat cats", the European Union, and the British Royal Family. Anthony Daniels, writing in The Daily Telegraph, said: "...not only does he never mention foreigners in any but a derogatory way – when he is far too intelligent a man really to believe that we have nothing to learn from any of them – but when he writes of the Germans and the Japanese as having taken our cars and electronics industries he is pandering to the kind of stupid, ignorant, sentimental, self-pitying xenophobia which is the root of all fascism, and which is an obstacle to genuine self improvement."[1] The New Statesman wrote: "Not exactly New Statesman territory, but the pick of the best tabloid columnist in Britain is a joy from beginning to end. Hysterically funny, wonderfully politically incorrect, [...] the only writer in Britain to rival the best of the Americans."[28]
  • To Hell in a Handcart (2001, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-00-710613-0) – named after another of his catchphrases, this is Littlejohn's only novel, based loosely on the Tony Martin case. The book was lambasted by critics for its portrayal of asylum seekers and the stereotypical individuals in the book, notably by The Independent's David Aaronovitch who described it as "a 400-page recruiting pamphlet for the British National Party".[29] However, it received positive reviews from some conservative writers such as Frederick Forsyth and Andrew Roberts. This was later the subject of a BBC Radio Five Live discussion with Will Self.[30]
  • Littlejohn's Britain – Publisher: Hutchinson (3 May 2007) ISBN 0-09-179568-0 – described by The Observer as "lampooning New Labour with polemic, pastiche, parody, satire and savage social commentary". The New Statesman said of it: "Littlejohn's Britain doesn't exist. Literally. He spends much of the year writing from a gated mansion in Florida, and admitted in a recent column that, when he is in Britain, he rarely leaves the house. He is describing a country he sees only through the pages of the right-wing press and his self-reinforcing mailbag."[31]
  • Littlejohn's House of Fun: Thirteen Years of (Labour) Madness – Publisher: Hutchinson (1 April 2010) ISBN 978-0-09-193168-1 – Reviewing for The Daily Telegraph Roger Lewis said: "If you prize free expression, this book is essential reading. I was unable to find fault with a single sentiment."[32]

Controversy and criticism[edit]

Asian hopscotch lessons[edit]

In February 2011, Littlejohn wrote in his Daily Mail column that Haringey Council was using taxpayer funds for hopscotch lessons for Asian women.[33] This was an urban myth first propagated by the former Conservative Party chairman, Brian Mawhinney in 1995, who took the name of the Hopscotch Asian Women's Centre literally. In fact, the centre offers "support services for Asian women and their families on a wide range of issues including domestic violence, benefits, housing, education, immigration and health matters [and provided] advocacy and support to people with learning disabilities".[34][35][36]

Attitude toward homosexuality[edit]

The Diary column of The Guardian newspaper annually documents the results of a "Littlejohn audit"[37] — a count of the number of references Littlejohn makes to homosexuality in his columns.

In the past year's Sun columns, Richard has referred 42 times to gays, 16 times to lesbians, 15 to homosexuals, eight to bisexuals, twice to 'homophobia' and six to being "homophobic" (note his scornful inverted commas), five times to cottaging, four to "gay sex in public toilets", three to poofs, twice to lesbianism, and once each to buggery, dykery, and poovery. This amounts to 104 references in 90-odd columns – an impressive increase on his 2003 total of 82 mentions. There is, alas, no space for us to revisit the scientific study which found obsessive homophobes more responsive to gay porn. But Richard, we're begging you: talk to someone.

Marina HydeThe Guardian[37]

Littlejohn has said he is opposed to discrimination against homosexuals. In his Daily Mail column on 10 October 2007, he said, in reference to British society in the 1970s: "Though homosexuality wasn't exactly my idea of a night out, I thought it outrageous that gays were subjected to discrimination in areas such as employment, housing and pensions".[38]

Death of Lucy Meadows[edit]

In December 2012, Littlejohn wrote an article criticising the decision of an Accrington teacher (Lucy Meadows, born Nathan Uptown) to return to the same school after undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

Littlejohn cited concern for the sensibilities of the children and stated:"...he's not only trapped in the wrong body, he's in the wrong job". In the same article he sympathised with those who were "trapped in a body of the wrong sex" and underwent gender reassignment operations, and expressed support for the operations being paid for by the NHS, provided it was for a genuine medical reason.[39]

In March 2013, Meadows was found dead with police reporting no suspicious circumstance, suggesting suicide.[40] Littlejohn's article, which included a caption criticising the school for "burying" the news of Miss Meadows, was later removed from the Daily Mail's website following Meadows' death,[41] with an anonymously-authored obituary, repeatedly referring to Meadows as a man and making no mention of Littlejohn's article,[42] appearing online and in print. Trans Media Watch, a charity for transgender people, said: "We have been deeply saddened to hear of the death of Lucy Meadows, who was outed by the press when she decided to transition."[41]

A petition drive was launched demanding Littlejohn be sacked.[43][44][45][46][47][48] Two petitions signed by over 240,000 people were handed over to the Daily Mail offices.[49] At the Inquest into her death 28 May 2013, Blackburn and Hyndburn Coroner Michael Singleton stated that press coverage of her sex change was "...ill informed bigotry..." and that Richard Littlejohn in his article had "...carried out what can only be described as a character assassination, having sought to ridicule and humiliate Lucy Meadows and bring into question her right to pursue her career as a teacher".[50]

Disabled protester[edit]

In December 2010, Littlejohn "satirised"[51] an incident in which a 20-year-old man, Jody McIntyre with cerebral palsy was thrown out of his wheelchair by police at a protest.[52] Littlejohn argued that the young man involved should not have attended the protest, and compared him to Andy Pipkin from Little Britain.[51][53] This prompted 500 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission.[53]

Ethnic minority jobs[edit]

In December 2012 the Daily Mail published an apology[54] following a piece written by Littlejohn which insinuated that ethnic minority staff had got their jobs through discrimination and had threatened to sue the Equality and Human Rights Commissions.

Personal life[edit]

Littlejohn is a keen football fan and since the late-1960s has been a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur. He starred in his own football video, We Woz Robbed.[55]

He married Wendy A. Bosworth in 1974. They have two children, Georgina (b. 1975), also a journalist, and William (b. 1979), a chef.[1][56]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Farndale, Nigel (6 June 2001). "Shooting from the lip". Daily Telegraph. 
  2. ^ "Press Gazette names top forty journalists of the modern era". Press Gazette. 2005-11-25. 
  3. ^ "Richard Littlejohn to address Journalists' Charity". Press Gazette. 2008-03-09. 
  4. ^ Clarkson, Jeremy (3 February 2008). "Clarkson's well aimed put-downs". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Hagerty, Bill (3 June 2007). "'The irritant label has stuck. I think it's fantastic'". The Observer. 
  6. ^ a b Wright, Patrick (22 February 1993). "The bottle thrower Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn has been named Irritant of the Year in the What The Papers Say awards". The Guardian (Manchester). 
  7. ^ "Toffs at the top". Press Gazette. 6 June 2006. 
  8. ^ a b c "Richard Littlejohn:Why I'll never give up the day .ob". British Journalism Review 13 (3): 65–70. 2002. doi:10.1177/095647480201300312. 
  9. ^ David Rowan: The Times: Interview – Richard Littlejohn Sky/The Sun
  10. ^ a b c Greenslade, Roy (18 Oct 2005). "Take one columnist, two papers and steam". The Telegraph. 
  11. ^ Donegan, Lawrence (11 March 1993). "Statesman wins scribes' backing". The Guardian (Manchester). 
  12. ^ "Media Guardian 100: 61. Richard Littlejohn". The Guardian. 16 July 2001. 
  13. ^ "‘Puppeteer’ Dacre in Littlejohn court fight". Press Gazette. 14 October 2005. 
  14. ^ "Media Guardian 100: 83. Richard Littlejohn". The Guardian. 17 July 2006. 
  15. ^ Is Littlejohn's Column Turning Into A Saga?, Press Gazette, 3 June 2005
  16. ^ a b c Why I'll never give up the day job British Journalism Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2002, pages 65–70, "During one of the interminable age-of-consent debates, a gang of militant homosexuals kicked lumps out of a young police officer outside the Commons. I happened to remark on air that the police should have turned the flame throwers on them"
  17. ^ Why I'll never give up the day job British Journalism Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2002, pages 65–70, "Another censure arrived when I described the royals as 'a bunch of tax-evading adulterers'. Who, with hindsight, would argue with that?"
  18. ^ Burkeman, Oliver (25 November 2002). "Fox on the run". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  19. ^ "How much does he earn?: No 36: Richard Littlejohn, journalist, broadcaster and former Irritant of the Year.". The Independent. 10 July 1994. 
  20. ^ Thompson, Ben (10 July i994). "Oases amid the Troubles". The Independent. 
  21. ^ "The Game Still Goes On". offthetelly. October 2001. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  22. ^ "Wanted". UKGameshows.com. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  23. ^ McCann, Paul (10 December 1997). "Littlejohn back in the 'Sun'". The Independent. 
  24. ^ "Littlejohn Presentation". TV Newsroom. Retrieved 3 January 2011. 
  25. ^ Newkey-Burden, Chas (9 August 2007). "How Richard Littlejohn out-liberalled the Left". The First Post. 
  26. ^ "Question Time". BBC News. 30 April 2008. 
  27. ^ "Have I Got News For You – Episode Guides". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  28. ^ Pollard, Stephen (20 December 1996). "You Couldn't Make it Up". New Statesman 9 (434). p. 117. 
  29. ^ Aaronovitch, David (13 June 2001). "David Aaronovitch: Going to hell in a handcart". The Independent. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  30. ^ Self v Littlejohn BBC. 15 June 2001
  31. ^ Hari, Johann (21 May 2007). "On fantasy island". New Statesman. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  32. ^ Lewis, Roger (3 April 2010). "Littlejohn's House of Fun: Thirteen Years of Labour Madness by Richard Littlejohn: review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  33. ^ Littlejohn, Richard (15 February 2011). "Those wicked 'Tory cuts' – women and children first". Daily Mail. 
  34. ^ Hundal, Sunny (17 February 2011). "Littlejohn slams non-existent 'hop-scotch lessons to Asian women'". Liberal Conspiracy. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  35. ^ "Welcome". Hopscotch Asian Women's Centre. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  36. ^ Factcheck: Are councils employing hopscotch teachers for Asian women? | Full Fact
  37. ^ a b Hyde, Marina (2004-11-10). "Diary". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-11-23. "A nagging feeling that, to some, anything to do with homosexuality remains fascinatingly transgressive forces us to conduct the annual Littlejohn audit." 
  38. ^ "Richard Littlejohn". Daily Mail (London). 2007-10-04. Retrieved 2007-11-28. 
  39. ^ Littlejohn, Upton (20 December 2012). "Nathan Upton's not only in the wrong body, he's in the wrong job". The Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers, Ltd. Retrieved 22 March 2013. "So I have every sympathy for the 400 or so people a year who opt for "gender reassignment" surgery to put themselves out of their misery. I don’t even have any problem with sex-change operations being carried out on the NHS, provided it's a genuine medical necessity and not a lifestyle choice [...] By insisting on returning to St Mary Magdalen's, he is putting his own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children he has taught for the past few years. It would have been easy for him to disappear quietly at Christmas, have the operation and then return to work as "Miss Meadows" at another school on the other side of town in September. No one would have been any the wiser. But if he cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he is paid to teach, he's not only trapped in the wrong body, he's in the wrong job." 
  40. ^ "Sex Change Teacher Lucy Meadows Found Dead". Sky News. BSkyB. 21 March 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013. "A spokeswoman for Lancashire Police said: "At 4.45pm on Tuesday, police were called by the ambulance service to a report of a sudden death at an address on Ramsbottom Street in Accrington. "On arrival they found the body of a 32-year-old woman. There are no suspicious circumstances and a file will be prepared and passed to the coroner." In a statement on the school website, head teacher Karen Hardman said: "It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the death of Miss Lucy Meadows." 
  41. ^ a b Palmer, Ewan (March 21, 2013). "Sex Change Teacher Lucy Meadows Found Dead on Eve of Return to Accrington School". International Business Times. Retrieved March 21, 2013. "Meadows' transition from male to female became national news after the Mail online published an opinion piece by Richard Littlejohn who raised questions about the effects of the sex change on pupils at the school. The piece was taken offline following news of the death." 
  42. ^ Daily Mail Reporter (March 21, 2013). "Primary school teacher, 32, who announced to pupils he was changing sex is found dead at home". Daily Mail. Retrieved March 22, 2013. "Nathan Upton taught at St Mary Magdalen's Church of England Primary School, in Accrington, Lancs; He switched his name to Miss Lucy Meadows after undergoing gender reassignment surgery" 
  43. ^ Greenslade, Roy (22 March 2013). "Daily Mail urged to fire Richard Littlejohn after death of Lucy Meadows". Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  44. ^ Pidd, Helen; Saskia Murphy (22 March 2013). "Trans teacher believed to have killed herself 'had told of press harassment'". Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  45. ^ Brown, Jonathan (23 March 2013). "Transgender primary school teacher who 'took own life' had sought protection from media hounding before her death". The Independent. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  46. ^ "Media blamed for suicide of transgendered teacher in England - UPI.com". United Press International. 23 March 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  47. ^ Palmer, Ewan (22 March 2013). "Lucy Meadows Transgender Teacher Suicide: Sack Richard Littlejohn Daily Mail 'Monster' Columnist, Petition Demands - IBTimes UK". International Business Times. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  48. ^ Turvill, William (25 March 2013). "Vigil planned at Daily Mail offices for dead teacher as 22,000 call for Richard Littlejohn to be sacked". Press Gazette. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  49. ^ Turvill, William (2 April 2013). "Campaigns to get Richard Littlejohn sacked by Daily Mail signed by 240,000". Press Gazette. 
  50. ^ Huffington Post 28 May 2013 and Guardian 28 May 2013
  51. ^ a b Greenslade, Roy (15 December 2010). "Littlejohn has a right to be obnoxious". The Guardian. 
  52. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1338336/Stockholm-suicide-bomber-Why-Luton-training-ground.html
  53. ^ a b Burrell, Ian (15 December 2010). "Outrage at Littlejohn's disabled rant". The Independent. 
  54. ^ Press Complaints Commission >> News >> Ms Finola Kelly
  55. ^ "Richard Littlejohn's We Woz Robbed". amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  56. ^ "It's not nepotism. It's life in our parallel universe". Press Gazette. 28 October 2005. 

External links[edit]