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Fleet Street editor's snipe at Hampstead liberals' 'gilded lifestyle'

PUBLISHED: 19:19 17 October 2011 | UPDATED: 11:09 18 October 2011

Daily Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre speaks at the Society of Editors conference in 2008. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Daily Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre speaks at the Society of Editors conference in 2008. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Ben Birchall/PA Wire

A doyen of Fleet Street has thrown Hampstead into a soul-searching spin after labelling all residents of the leafy suburb "liberal" in his opening salvo at the Leveson Inquiry into press regulation.

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s comments about “the Hampstead liberal with his gilded lifestyle (who) understandably enjoys The Guardian” prompted The Times to launch a probing editorial into the reality of the allegation.

Mr Dacre’s accusations came as the debate over press regulation began in earnest following the phone hacking scandal.

He argues the press’s definition of “public interest” should not be decided by Guardian-reading Hampstead liberals alone.

Mr Dacre, Fleet Street’s longest-serving editor, added: “Does he or a judge have any right to deny someone who works 10 hours a day in a Sunderland call centre and lives for football, the right to buy a paper that reveals the sexual peccadilloes of one of the team’s millionaire married players – a player who uses a celebrity to sell products to him and his children?”

The generalisation of Hampstead homeowners as “champagne socialists” was, according to The Times’ double-page spread, almost entirely correct - although some proved less than willing to be named in the article.

One proud Hampstead liberal, Cllr Linda Chung however said: “I love being a Hampstead liberal and we live and let live as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

“We’re not all posh snobs, but what we are is damn intelligent and learned.

“The last thing any Hampstead liberal wants is to deny anyone their preferred reading matter.

“However Dacre misses the point of the Leveson Inquiry – can anyone, Hampstead liberal, whether gilded or no, not be appalled by the illegal phone hacking and outrageous intrusion into personal lives, just to achieve some titillating headline?”

But with MP Glenda Jackson scraping to the country’s closest election victory at last year’s General Election - beating Conservative candidate Chris Philip by a paltry 42 votes - is the intellectual heartland of north London changing its political character?

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