Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Thanks to Quentin Letts, I suddenly have rather more money in my pocket...

I used to be a Guardian reader which, given that I'm a Liberal Democrat, might not surprise that many people. And yes, there were annoying aspects to it - Polly Toynbee, for the most part, but I could put up with that. But, about six years ago, I switched to The Times, newspaper of record and all that. Their sports coverage was quite good, and whilst I didn't necessarily feel comfortable with either their editorial line or, to be honest, their ownership, I took the view that I'm enough of a sceptic to consciously filter out their right-wing bias.

One of the features that I follow particularly closely is the parliamentary sketch, and I'd grown used to Patrick Kidd's style but then, a few months back, I noticed that he had gone, replaced by... Quentin Letts. I loathe his writing, his rather snide, sneering approach to people who, for all of their failings, are mostly trying to do a job of work, and their best of society. They're also paid considerably less than he is, I suspect, part of which comes from my wallet.

I put up with it for a while but my sense was that the paper was drifting towards the knee-jerk right, and so, this morning, I rang the subscriptions department to cancel (interestingly, they don't appear to offer an option to do so online - at least, I couldn't find it). After pressing a few option buttons, I was put through to a very polite young (I thought) man, sitting in an office in Colchester.

"I'd like to cancel my subscription.", I said, politely. "Really,", he replied, "may I ask why that is? I see that you've been a subscriber for six years.". "Quentin Letts,", I said, "I really don't like his attitude or style.". (I paraphrase here...).

The young man tried to convince me to change my mind. "We do have some other excellent columnists - Melanie Phillips and Rachel Sylvester were the two names he used to persuade me to stay. He was unfortunate in his choice, in that I can't bring myself to read much of Melanie's diatribes, and Rachel Sylvester has not really drawn my attention.

No, I insisted, I'd like to terminate my subscription. He hesitated. "Let me talk to my manager for a moment. I'll put you on hold and get back to you.". I waited, patiently. After all, I'm a polite soul, and he was simply doing his job.

He returned. "I've spoken to my manager, and would a half-price subscription for three months change your mind?". No, I said, it's not about the money, it's about a principle. I don't like Quentin Letts and his works, you've employed him, and this is the consequence.". "Would six months at half price change that?". "No, as I said, it's not about the money.".

"It's sorry that you're leaving, you'll miss our excellent sports reporting and range of columnists. I'm sure that, in a few months, you'll be back.". "I'm afraid not,", I replied, "and as I think about it, adding Rod Liddle to the list, I'm almost surprised that I've lasted this long.".

Eventually, he gave in to the inevitable. I wasn't going to change my mind, and it was agreed that my subscription would lapse on 19 January. A reference number was generated, so that I could monitor whether or not they try to continue taking my money, and we brought our conversation to an end.

It dawns on me that many people in this country don't read a daily newspaper any more, for a range of reasons. And I don't have to either. There are plenty of free news sources online, there are more reputable options, and I can now explore those. And, best of all, I don't have to read the parliamentary sketches by Quentin Letts any more. 

Frankly, John Crace is much better...

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