About a month ago I picked up a voicemail message that initially sent a chill through my heart like an iced stilletto.
“It’s Rebekah Wade’s office. Could you please call back.”
My mind raced to think what it could be. It had been a good couple of years since we last met and the Editor of the Sun wasn’t the type who did social calls.
Perhaps this was an anti-social call?
Thankfully it was just her PA under orders to update the Editor’s contacts diary. Always the consumate networker. Never resting on her laurels.
But then, if you’re always braced for a call from the Dirty Digger, you don’t do complacency.
So today’s news that she’s been promoted to oversee all News International titles is just another chapter in a pretty remarkable rise for the former Wapping secretary.
She has a remarkable personal touch and loves to tie up the best scoops herself.
Eight years ago, the News of the World found our secret brother (so secret, I didn’t even know.)
The hack had turned up on my brother’s doorstep and broke the news that Pauline was his real mother.
Obviously a clear breach of privacy (the public interest defence wouldn’t have stood up and Wade, who was editor at the time, must have known it.)
So Wade said they wouldn’t run it, allowing us to get to know Paul out of the spotlight.
But we knew that eventually the story would come out so a year later, I arranged to meet Rebekah, who was editing the Sun, in the beer garden of the Captain Kidd in Wapping.
She’d made it very clear she wanted to handle the negotiations. Arthur Edwards would be the snapper, a sympathetic female feature writer, Sam Carlisle, would do the interview and we could decide on the release of the story – when John and Pauline ideally were out of the country.
Then it came down to the headline.
She wanted ‘Prescott’s Secret Love Child.’ And it was quiet clear there’d be no budging.
We weren’t happy but managed to get it qualified in the sub-headline, clarifying brother Paul was Pauline’s, not John’s.
It all went to clockwork and with the parents out of the way, the Sun had their splash. The story was out there and we could all finally get on with our lives without having to look over our shoulders.
The following year when I was in a car crash, Rebekah sent me flowers. Sunflowers. Very cute but also very sweet.
She’s got a hell of a challenging time ahead of her. I’m sure she kicks herself every morning for not buying that expenses disc and trying to win new readers when the young are used to getting their content for free, is a problem that even Murdoch hasn’t cracked.
But if Wade can continue to utilise the drive, determination and dilligence she’s shown throughout her career, I reckon she could be his best bet to finding that answer.
However, not everyone was happy with the way she did business.
I’ll always remember one person who was left furious with our little deal.
He was the Deputy Editor of the News of the World who’d originally discovered the story and sent the hack to doorstep my brother only to see it spiked by Rebekah.
He’d since been promoted to the editorship and felt it was his baby. When the Sun ran “his scoop” I understand he was apoplectic.
No hard feelings, eh Andy?