Monday 20 October 2014

How Liz Jones became public enemy

Liz Jones gets hate mail by the sackful for her unhinged brand of journalism, but Stephen Milton finds her devastatingly honest, polite – and really rather nice

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29:  (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE M. BENETT/GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED)  Liz Jones attends the English National Ballet Summer Party held at The Orangery at Kensington Palace on June 29, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)
Liz Jones: Three million readers of her columns can't all be wrong
Liz Jones is never anything less than compelling and entertaining.

I like Liz Jones and always have. So there, I admit it. Now as a wordsmith with, hopefully, some discerning intelligence, I'm supposed to revile the 'Daily Mail' columnist, fashion editor and all she stands for. Shredding her weekly diatribe, primarily an overshare of her personal affairs – and the most read commentary online – is a favoured blood sport for my trade.

This is the woman who, after all, went into great detail about her deranged efforts to have a baby with her former husband. By stealing the contents of a used condom.

"I didn't think it was a huge thing," she pleads, with what has to be an amusing, faux naivety. "I thought everyone did it. Now, I'm not condoning this behaviour, but young men should be aware that women are manipulative and duplicitous and do anything to get their own way."

Barmy and unhinged, with an outlandish outlook and zero filter, if she isn't attracting the ire of some pocket of society each week, then Jones hasn't done her job right.

From the "toothless" country folk who reside in the surrounds of her former Somerset home in Exmoor; to Britain's homeless, "a collection of drug addicts, drunks and prostitutes, who like doing what they do and don't want my help", she once claimed.

It's largely women, however, and more specifically, mums, who seem to get it in the neck.

"The mummy mafia are so smug. They all tweet each other and everything is so perfect.

"But I write, 'I bet you're not having sex! I bet your husband's gay and I bet your children swear at you and upset you all the time'," chuckles Liz. "And then people don't get the joke. When I'm writing about mums, I'm joking because life is funny. That's the only way I get through."

Either certifiably bonkers or refreshingly forthright – or both – Jones is never anything less than compelling and entertaining.

Three million readers of her columns can't all be wrong.

Sadly, the problem for Liz Jones is that Liz Jones doesn't seem to like Liz Jones. Or is this simply all part of a self-destructive, ultimately lucrative, ruse?

Throughout our 40-minute conversation, the former editor of British 'Marie Claire' pointedly peppers the chat with self-flagellating soundbites – "I'm just tired of myself", or "I have no friends". My personal favourite has to be, "No one wants to be me".

I ask her to explain this damning statement. "I've never done anything right in life," she reaffirms, script-like. "No one wants to be old, alone, friendless, ridiculed, criticised. Who wants to be that?"

So no one would want a hugely successful writing career, five best-sellers under the belt, a six-figure salary and what sounds like an incredibly beautiful, riverside home, which acts as a sanctuary to 113 dogs, cats, horses, chickens and other four-legged fauna. Sure, no one would want that.

Naturally featured in her work, he was once thought to be Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr. Denying the assumption, she's refused to divulge his true identity.

"I've been offered lots of money to do that, but men hate you writing about them and they hate you writing about yourself. I've yet to meet one who thinks otherwise."

The 54-year-old has had a difficult existence. A lifelong struggle with anorexia, chronic OCD and repressed sexuality, she examines all and more in her latest tome, 'Girl Least Likely To: 30 Years of Fashion, Fasting and Fleet Street'.

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