Kelvin MacKenzie pays price after Sun takes eye off the ball

Peter Preston
Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The real curiosity is Kelvin MacKenzie’s “suspension” from Sun columnising (after a notably vile and clodhopping piece about the young Everton footballer Ross Barkley). It sounds almost as though Kelvin is some redtop version of Ken Livingstone, benched for putting his boot in it again.

Yet any comparison between Corbyn Labour and Murdoch Sun can’t survive for a second. MacKenzie doesn’t have unlimited licence to write or say what he likes. He doesn’t rent a white sheet of blank paper from Rupert every columnar morning. On the contrary, he’s contracted to write his piece, turn it in on time, and watch it go through the editing process before appearing in print. MacKenzie was a long-term editor. He knows what editing means. He knows there’s an executive hierarchy – from subs to night lawyers to supreme authorities – there to watch his back.

But did they? They commissioned a grisly cartoon to sit with the piece. But the racism and gorilla references that incensed the mayor of Liverpool don’t seem to have rung any alarms. MacKenzie is left to take this rap alone.

A good, richly deserved comeuppance, you may think – and maybe the end of his career. But a suspension for something the powers-that-be sanctified before turning turtle? That seems a little rough – just like this whole blundering, bewildering episode itself.

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