Posted: May 2nd, 2018
At the funeral of TONY MILES on May 1, JOHN PILGER paid this tribute to his friend and colleague. The funeral/memorial service, and the ensuing wake, were well attended, and Mike Molloy also gave a moving eulogy.
Remembering Tony Miles – By John Pilger
Thank you, Anne, for inviting me to speak today. My love and solidarity to you. These few words are my personal tribute.
I was 23 years on the Mirror, perhaps the happiest and most rewarding time of my life. I owe much of this to Tony Miles. I arrived in Britain in the 1960s when extraordinary changes were happening in this country, socially, politically – and in journalism.
Hugh Cudlipp is credited, rightly, with taking the most popular newspaper in the Western world and changing it into a tabloid that remained true to itself, which now spoke to people across the classes and brought the struggles and triumphs of humanity to millions of Britons. For this, it was admired across the world.
Tony Miles was the unsung hero of this epic change. It was Tony who masterminded Cudlipp’s original idea. I have never known a journalist, or a friend, like him.
During a fierce argument in the Stab-in-the Back, our pub in Fetter Lane, with those who opposed this change – and there were many – Tony shouted: “We’re going to be better than The Guardian and we’re going to be read by everyone. Do you understand that, cock?”
He was many contradictions and – as some of you know from experience – was inclined not to take prisoners. But when he was wrong and persuaded he was wrong, he listened intently. He never sulked.
At times when I entered his office with an idea for a story, I knew immediately it would be launched only with a blazing row that would force me to stand my corner and state my case convincingly.
He was a supreme editor. He took other job titles, but he was always an editor, a true newspaperman – for me, the eager voice on the end of a phone whenever I rang from across the world with a story. When Robert Kennedy was assassinated and I was there, he said down the line: “You’ve got the splash, and page two and three. Start filing and don’t stop.”
How exciting it was to have an editor like that. He was, in the very best sense, a true tabloid man.
My affection for Tony was boundless. He was an outsider; so was I. He was an irascible conservative; above all, he was principled and clever. And he had style.
When the new owner, Robert Maxwell, called his first Mirror board meeting at two in the morning, just to show who was boss, Tony was the one who stayed in bed.
He was unfailingly loyal and kind to those who really knew him. Long after he had left the Mirror, when we both had new careers and I faced formidable enemies in a court action, it was Tony who offered to fly immediately from America, where he and Anne had moved, and stand with me. When the case was over, I took my young daughter to Florida to stay with them. In my honour, we went to a restaurant called the Outback, where a waiter wore a hat with corks.
Tony drove us there in his blue Caddy, which he loved. Anne had a powder blue Buick. The number plates said, ‘2 MILES’. I have never known a pair who enjoyed life as they did. Their kindness at this time of need was all I needed.
I shall never forget him.
A SERVICE for BOBBY BETTS has been arranged by his family on Friday, July 31, followed by a wake.
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