The Life of Hugh Cudlipp
Hugh Cudlipp was born
in Cardiff in 1913, the son of a commercial traveller and one of
three brothers (all of whom became editors of national newspapers
on Fleet Street at the same time: Reg - News of the World, Percy
- Evening Standard and later Daily Herald and Hugh - Mirror Group).
He started his career on the Penarth News in 1929 and then worked
on newspapers in Cardiff and Manchester before becoming features
editor of the Daily Mirror in 1935 and subsequently editor of the
Sunday Pictorial in 1938. During this pre-war period he was part
of the journalistic team that included Cecil King, Guy Bartholomew
and William Connor (Cassandra) that revitalised these newspapers
in the 'tabloid revolution'.
He joined the Army during
the Second World War, where he served in North Africa and produced
a chain of Services daily newspapers, notably 'Union Jack', for
which he was awarded an OBE.
The priority must
be to produce the maximum information at the most forward sphere
of military operation
from Walking on the Water, Hugh Cudlipp, 1976
During this time he
corresponded continuously with Cecil King who kept him informed
about the progress of the war on all fronts and the difficulties
of producing newspapers during the war. He returned to civilian
life in 1946.
He returned to Fleet
Street, resuming his editorship of the Sunday Pictorial, but following
his sacking by Guy Bartholomew in 1949 he took up Lord Beaverbrook's
offer to become managing editor of the Sunday Express. He eventually
moved back to the Daily Mirror as editorial director in 1952 and
remained associated with the Mirror Group through his chairmanship
of the Daily Mirror Newspapers and the International Publishing
Corporation until his retirement in 1973.
During this time the
Daily Mirror expanded its readership and influence as a strong supporter
of the Labour Party until it became the most influencial tabloid
newspaper in Britain.
More than any other
newspaper group in Fleet Street we have found and developed individual
talent - which, coupled with our understanding of the masses, is
the secret of our success.
- Hugh Cudlipp to Cecil King, 21 September 1955
Hugh Cudlipp's close
friendship and professional relationship with Cecil King remained
I developed a permanent
affection and respect for Cecil King that lasted, with a few explosions
for the rest of our lives. Nobody was more active in expanding my
knowledge and experience and giving me opportunities to utilise
such talents as I had
- from Walking on the Water, Hugh Cudlipp, 1976
This became strained
following the publication of King's article 'Enough is Enough' in
the Daily Mirror on 10 May 1968. King stated that as a result of
the disastrous local elections, the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson
and the government had 'lost all credibility' and that the Parliamentary
Labour Party should find a fresh leader.
The Board of the International
Publishing Corporation, of which Cecil King was Chairman, viewed
this as the last straw in his long and personal Wilson Must
Go campaign. Following a meeting of the Board at the end of
May 1968 King was dismissed as Chairman of IPC and from the Board.
Hugh Cudlipp succeeded him as Chairman, where he remained until
his retirement in 1973.
Hugh Cudlipp was knighted
in 1973 and created a life peer the following year.
The years following his
retirement were as busy as his journalistic career. He became a
member of the Royal Commission on Standards in Public Life from
1974 to 1976 and was in charge of the Governments Counter-Inflation
Publicity Unit (set up to encourage public understanding of the
problem of inflation) from July 1976 until it was disbanded in November
From 1984 to 1986 he
became consultant with Mirror Group Newspapers, and sent weekly
reports offering advice to Robert Maxwell on the content and development
of the Mirror and Sunday Mirror. His concern over the quality of
popular journalism at the time is well illustrated in the following
quotations from the period of his consultancy:
are now rarely mentioned in any significant sense; even more rarely
quoted. The Daily Mirror must and can regain its position
among the worlds most quoted and influential newspapers in
its own spheres. Popularity isnt enough.
18 July 1984
Mirror gives the impression of being produced from day to
day with great energy but without a basic passionately-held philosophy
and without identifiable and consistent standards of journalistic
judgement and behaviour. A sensational tabloid newspaper should
strive - more diligently perhaps than a serious, quality newspaper
- to be acknowledged as mature, stable and fair in its attitudes
to people and public issues.
Hugh Cudlipp continued
to write prolifically, producing four books (autobiographical, a
history of the Daily Mirror and a collection of essays), innumerable
articles and letters to the national press and articles for professional
journals and magazines. He maintained his wide range of contacts
within the Mirror Group, journalism, politics and the arts.
Throughout his life he
was concerned to maintain the highest standards of popular journalism
but at the same time he enjoyed his career enormously as he states
in his biography Walking on the Water in 1976:
God, it was fun. So far as journalism was concerned I didnt
do a stroke of work in my life. It was a pleasurable mental exercise.
I was paid frugally at first and sumptuously later on, but was always
surprised I was paid at all for the editorial side of my activities:
what for - enjoying myself and informing and entertaining others?
Who would mind working around the clock if every day is punctuated
by the impulse of events, when the only routine is the exceptional
and the unexpected, and when the norm is the abnormal?
Hugh Cudlipp died on17
He was a giant
of 20th century journalism. His Mirror represented the best in British
tabloid journalism - entertaining and informative but also honest,
passionate and committed to the decent values of the decent majority.
- Tony Blair, Prime Minister