The wishes of Citizen Black

Allan Fotheringham August 23 1999

The wishes of Citizen Black

Allan Fotheringham August 23 1999

The wishes of Citizen Black

Allan Fotheringham

Konrad Blast, boy tycoon, is in deep danger of becoming a caricature of himself. Why such an intelligent man would make a fool of himself—while providing summer amusement for bored newspaper readers—is one of the puzzlements of our time.

Lord Almost, as Dalton Camp has dubbed him, is involved in this ludicrous Gilbert and Sullivan law suit with the downmarket Jean Chrétien, who has emerged about as petty as Konrad in the whole affair.

He wants, for his “embarrassment,” $25,000, which, as some obscure columnist has pointed out, in the Konrad Blast household is known as “lunch money.”

This is the man, owner of the very fine Daily Telegraph of London, who faced down another colonial, Rupert Murdoch (aka “The Dirty Digger”), in a price war against The Times of London. And on Oct. 18 of 1998 The Sunday Times published the research of Dr. Terry Kellard, a leading British psychologist who specializes in the study of power and influence.

He ranked Lord Nearly-Nearly as the fourth-most powerful man in Britain—behind only Prime Minister Tony Blair, Microsoft spoiled child Bill Gates and the Lord Chief Justice Tom Bingham.

This left in the dust such as Cherie Booth QC, the barrister who is the PM’s wife (No. 50), the despicable Mohammed al-Fayed, owner of Harrods, at 84 and the Queen no less, at 100. Anorexic supermodel Kate Moss checked in at 120 while poor Murdoch, in his own paper, finished down the track at only 13.

So why would the fourth-most powerful man on the Tight Litde Island raise such a fuss? A certain columnist on the back page of this here magazine, on Dec. 23, 1985, predicted that the boy tycoon, having acquired the Telegraph from its addled owners whose blue blood had perilously thinned, would soon be purchasing the title of Lord Black of Red Ink.

This would follow, of course, in the storied tradition of Canadian interlopers who lusted after British titles. Max Aitken, of downtown New Brunswick, who left Canada under a cloud over a suspicious cement cartel, was knighted at age 32 and by 37 was Lord Beaverbrook.

The gormless Roy Thomson (“owning a TV station is a licence to print money”) bought his tide to the House of Lords and willingly gave up his Canadian citizenship. Son

Ken Thomson, owner of The Globe and Mail, at least has the grace never to use the tide he inherited and has never set foot in the House of Lords.

So why would the brilliant Lord Almost, the only man in the universe who has a larger vocabulary than William F. Buckley Jr., covet a spot in the pastureland of chinless wonders, spavined foxhunters and one lord who was caught selling cocaine in the pristine corridors of Westminster.

The answer, so sad, is that Lord Almost is a bully—as are most types born to wealth and power—and he wants it both ways. As do many (but not all) born to wealth and power. Lord NearlyNearly wants the privileges of being a Canadian citizen combined with the perks of British toffdom.

Andrew Coyne, one of Mr. Blasts Post columnists, has had the courage to point out the truth: the issue is not whether a Canadian should be allowed to accept a British title; the issue is dual citizenship.

Either you believe in one country, or you don’t.

Lord Almost, who has lived principally in Britain for some 15 years, never took the necessary steps to acquire British citizenship until he was informed this spring that his lust for lordship would require that. He, thanks to his connections, apparendy got it in less than a New York minute.

There is a problem here. Lord Not-Quite in his first years as squire of the Daily Telegraph on Fleet Street used to dump on Canada as a has-been, detritus on the world stage.

Lately, he has initiated a new cause—Canada should unite in a new vision, allying with a Britain that would reject the European Union and its common currency and connect with the U.S. and the land where he was born.

This all coincided with the fact that the man who wants to have it both ways acquired most of the major newspapers in Canada, a remarkable gulp that neither Hearst, nor Pulitzer, nor Beaverbrook in their day would ever imagine.

Lord Not-Quite, whom I really like because of his arch humour, knows perfectly well that he can’t renounce his Canadian citizenship because Canadian law and, more important, Canadian tax regulations forbid unwashed foreigners from owning Canadian newspaper chains.

He wants it both ways, but he ain’t gonna get it. I ain’t no fan of Chrétien, but Canadian opinion backs him.