Thursday, 15 May 2014

Blum & Taff: A tale of two Fleet Street editors

Former Express Newspapers production director Dennis Griffiths came up with the idea for this biography of two Fleet Street editors from the early years of the twentieth century - R.D. Blumenfeld and  H.A. Gwynne - after discovering a cache of letters and memos in a rubbish skip.

Griffiths was asked to look at the contents of the skip after the Standard moved from Shoe Lane to the Daily Express offices in Fleet Street. There he found letters going back 50 years, including correspondence from Winston Churchill, Lord Beaverbrook and Blumenfeld. "This. then was the start of my research into Blum & Taff," writes Grifftiths.

Neither Blumenfeld, who edited the Daily Express from 1904-28, and Gwynne, The Standard from 1904-11, and the Morning Post 1911-37, have been the subject of biographies before despite their long careers.

Before becoming Fleet Street editors, they had were both war correspondents – Blumenfeld for the New York Herald and Gwynne for The Times and Reuters. As editors they were close to Prime Ministers from Gladstone to Churchill and the book shows the influence they and their newspapers had during the First World War, the nationalist uprising in Ireland, the General Strike and the Abdication crisis.

Gwynne, described by Griffiths as "the arch plotter",  tried to oust Asquith as Prime Minister and replace him with Sir Edward Carson, leader of the Ulster Unionists. What would a Leveson-style inquiry have had to say about that?

Griffiths has used letters – in many instances unpublished – from authors, politicians and military figures. Giants of the UK newspaper industry prominently featured on the book include Beaverbrook, Camrose, Northcliffe, Pearson and Rothermere. There are also many pictures of  Fleet Street in its heyday.
  • Blum & Taff is published by Coranto Press, priced £25.

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