The Daily Mirror and Marje Proops. Was it racism?

Vernon Coleman

Some years ago I used to help judge the Bride of the Year competition organised by the Daily Mirror. The whole event was largely masterminded by the late Marje Proops, the paper's agony aunt and she, I and one or two `celebrities' would turn up at some smart London location and inspect the finalists. I was never quite sure what I was doing there, for although I was then a fairly regular contributor to the paper I had no official status. But it was a fairly `fun' day and everyone (even the losing finalists) seemed to treat it all rather well. The brides all got their picture in the paper.

I remember well that one year the finalists included a very lovely bride who stood out from the other contestants. She was black. I thought that she seemed an excellent choice and was arguing her case when Marje took me aside.

`We can't choose her,' Marje told me quietly.

`Why not?' I asked, innocently.

`She's black,' said Marje.

I was stunned and didn't quite know what to say. After a moment I murmured something about having noticed this. `Does it matter?' I asked.

`Oh yes,' replied Marje sternly. `We couldn't possibly pick a black girl.' She frowned. `The readers wouldn't like it.'

`Then what is she doing here?' I asked.

`It looks good,' replied Marje, soothingly. `Makes it clear to everyone that we aren't being prejudiced.'

However much the newspaper's policy may have changed since then, this was certainly the Daily Mirror's policy as practised by a woman who was to many people the face and voice of the paper at the time. This all happened as recently as the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Taken from `Living In A Fascist Country' by Vernon Coleman, available from all good bookshops and from the shop on this website.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2006